Tech companies SAP AG and Vizio Inc. have a friend in Representative Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), the sponsor of a patent lawsuit reform bill to fight so-called “patent trolls.”
Speaking Tuesday at the Association of Corporate Counsel’s Annual Meeting in Los Angeles, SAP senior IP counsel Lisa Buccino and Vizio general counsel and legal affairs vice president Jerry Huang signaled their support for the Innovation Act [PDF], which Goodlatte introduced last week. The legislation is intended to make it more difficult for patent trolls—also known as patent assertion entities (PAEs)—to file abusive lawsuits, without weakening the overall U.S. patent system.
SAP and Vizio constantly face attacks by patent trolls, Buccino and Huang said. The patent system, the lawyers said, is skewed toward PAEs, which they said have little to lose when pursuing infringement claims.
“The bill has very practical ways to at least help to make the process more fair, more balanced,” Huang said.
The Vizio GC said he backs the measure’s provisions that would permit judges to limit discovery pending claim construction and would require plaintiffs to identify the patents at issue and provide details on how they were infringed.
Huang also said he supports the fee shifting proposed in the bill. Under the legislation, defendants who prevail in patent lawsuits can recover fees and other expenses accrued through litigation.
“I think the loser-pay provision potentially could help to resolve that dilemma of companies who may not have as robust a budget or that type of conviction to stand up and challenge these things,” he said. “Hopefully, with that kind of equity and balance, it would encourage more people to stand up and fight.”
Buccino said she is particularly excited about the bill’s provision that allows a judge to stay a patent lawsuit against a manufacturer’s customer when that maker is involved in parallel litigation.
“It’s my worst nightmare to have to litigate on behalf of my own company and 75 customers,” she said. “That is not fair.”
But Morrison & Foerster partner Vincent Belusko, who also spoke at the event, urged caution. Companies’ desire to limit damage from patent trolls might come back to hurt them when they are trying to protect their own patents from infringement, he said.
“It is a case of be careful what you ask for, because sometimes you have very good patents, which are entitled to very good protection,” said Belusko, who is a member of his firm’s IP group.