Image via
Image via

Tech companies have a history of patent troll struggles, but smaller businesses, including retailers and coffee shops, have since been accused of infringement and joined the lobbying lawmakers for protection.

In fact, President Barack Obama has called for Congress to pass legislation aimed at reining in what many companies complain are “frivolous” patent infringement lawsuits.  The President announced a blueprint for reducing the number of lawsuits in June and reiterated support for the effort in his State of the Union Address on Tuesday night.

“Let’s pass a patent reform bill that allows our businesses to stay focused on innovation, not costly, needless litigation,” said Obama in his speech.

The U.S. House of Representatives voted 325-91 on December 5, 2013 to approve a bill sponsored by Robert Goodlatte, a Virginia Republican, that encourages judges hearing patent cases to award fees to the winner of an infringement lawsuit. The idea is to make it easier and more affordable for defendants to respond to patent trolls in court rather than opting for a settlement simply because it’s less expensive. 

In addition, the bill requires companies filing infringement lawsuits to detail which patent is infringed – something that does not now reliably happen. According to Senator Patrick Leahy, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, the differences between the House and Senate bills would need to be ironed out before patent legislation could actually become law. If it becomes law the Innovation Act would raise the requirements to send infringement notices in the first place, which would result in harsher penalties in any case filed and subsequently lost by a plaintiff.

“The tens of billions of dollars spent on settlements and litigation expenses associated with abusive patent suits represent truly wasted capital. The patent system was never intended to be a playground for litigation extortion and frivolous claims,” said Goodlatte in a statement.

Technology companies largely support the proposed measures, including Cisco Systems Inc., Apple Inc., International Business Machines Corp, Google Inc. and other tech giants. The Association for Competitive Technology, which represents small tech companies, also supports the legislation. 

General counsel and state attorneys general alike have turned their attention to the issue of patent trolls, and an assortment of AGs and GCs will be speaking about the topic at an upcoming roundtable event. The free event will take place on Feb. 4, 2014 from 3:00-5:00 pm at the Intercontinental New York Barclay. It will feature the attorneys general from Nebraska, Missouri and Vermont as well as the general counsel from Walmart, du Pont and Rackspace. For more information, or to register for the event, click here.


For more on patent law, check out these articles:

Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley looks to slay patent trolls

Fee-shifting in patent cases: Will proposed legislation actually change anything?

IP: Subject matter conflicts of interest in patent prosecution – Case law