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Newly-proposed House bill takes aim at patent trolls
Newly-proposed House bill takes aim at patent trolls
July 23, 2013 | By Mike Rose

July 23, 2013 | By Mike Rose
More: Console/PC, Business/Marketing

Patent trolls aren't exactly an uncommon issue in the video game industry. It seems like a new story about legal notices and infringing patents pops up every other month.

Just weeks ago, for example, Treehouse Avatar Technologies claimed that at least four massively multiplayer online games were infringing on its patents. Meanwhile, Minecraft's creator Markus Persson has previously donated $250,000 to the Electronic Frontier Foundation to help fight back against software patents.

Now a new bill introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives earlier this week could potentially help defendants in such patent litigation cases.

Put together by Representatives Darrell Issa and Judy Chu, the "Stopping the Offensive Use of Patents (STOP) Act" [PDF] would expand on the original 2011 "America Invents Act," and help defendants to challenge the validity of any patents in question.

Ongoing litigation could potentially be paused under this proposed act, while patents are reviewed.

However, the EFF notes that chickens should not be counted as-of-yet -- there are already numerous similar bills pending in the House and Senate, although the EFF believes that Congress can make the patent system better in time.

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sean lindskog
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*fingers crossed*

Mitchell Fujino
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Ask Patents is an interesting website attempting to improve the software patent situation:

Basically it's crowdsourcing prior art searches.

Michael Kelley
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It's disheartening to see how easily the American public is conned. Multi-nat'ls manipulate the media, cultivating an opinion it convinces an ignorant public was its own idea.

Fun fact; by the Wall Street's own admission, a full 90% of its articles begin as a company's press release. Who then, is responsible for searing the fear of "patent troll" into the collective consciousness? Who sent out the first press releases that led to the constant barrage of media convincing the public that there were patent trolls hiding under their beds and in every closet and under every bridge? The antonymed "The Coalition for Patent Fairness" (Adobe, Apple,Cisco, Dell, Google, Intel, Intuit, Micron, Oracle, RIM, SAP, and Symantec), supporters of the antonymed "America Invents Act." Much like the antonymed "Patriot Act," the "America Invents Act" does the opposite of fostering Innovation and Invention. In addition to being seemingly unconstitutional (How S.23 Severely Disrupts America's Unique Process of Invention), it allows "people" to file objections to pending patents. What kind of people? Corporation-type-people, large enough to employ entire legal teams to scour patent applications and weed out the competition. Ie, Google and Apple.

As I understand it (not a lawyer), if you were to file a patent Apple, Microsoft, and Google will have the opportunity to raise objections to its issuance.

Here's how you protect yourself from inception, ie, having multi-nationals cultivate your opinion and convince you it was yours;
1. educate yourself - do you know the patent process? What constitutes a patentable invention? What is not patentable?

2. employ critical thinking skills - Under the rule of law, patent law, America has become the most prosperous, most innovative, and most highly advanced nation in all of human history. You simply cannot reconcile this most obvious of facts with the propagandists' refrain that "patents stifle innovation."

You've been hoodwinked again America.

Lars Doucet
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Point 2 is incredibly arguable.

Michael Kelley
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Really? I'd love to hear that argument. Are you going to cite soft sciences and subjective truths like "happiness indexes", or quantifiable facts like GDP, or, as is pertinent to the discussion, rate of invention?

Paul Speed
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Among other things, a better retort than I could ever write on how messed up software patents are:

A really good question is: why are there longer protection lengths in place now, in the age of 3D printers and rapid prototyping, as there were 200 years ago?

...and for software, where I can come up with an idea in the shower and deploy it live 20 minutes later, it's just plain ridiculous.

Michael Kelley
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I feel sorry for you that reductio ad absurdum rhetoric constitutes a better retort than you could ever write.

Notable that his education consists of "How to Read a Patent in 60 Seconds." It's a wonder law school takes years.

Are there bad patents? Sure, just like there's bad anything. Does that mean we should allow corporations to re-write the laws in their favor?

The idea behind patents is that it allows inventors to talk to practicing entities without fear that the corp will steal their IP. Look who's on the side of the "The Coalition for Patent Fairness." 1%ers like Mark Cuban. Multi-nat'ls like Adobe, Apple,Cisco, Dell, Google, Intel, Intuit, Micron, Oracle, RIM, SAP, and Symantec.

Liberals who complain about patent laws are no different than uninsured conservatives who complain about "Obamacare." They've been convinced by group-think to oppose what's otherwise in their own best interest.

Luke Shorts
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Re the value of patents for US economy and patent trolls,

I think point 2 above is arguable because it's a typical case of "correlation does not equal causation". Patents are an instrument of economic policy (and by the way, in the beginning their aim was more to protect local industry than to foster technical innovation) which interacts with many other factors so I find hard to believe any claim that patent laws are single-handedly responsible for the US economic wealth. Unfortunately, it is not possible to run a scientific experiment and replay history different times tweaking those variables so as to determine which are the individual contributions of those factors to US prosperity, so people will just keep arguing about this...

Coming back to quantifiable facts, pretty much all countries that are in the ballpark range of the US GDP (
29) such as China, Japan, Germany (or the European Union as a whole if you want, since as far as substantive patent law is concerned, all EU countries are the same) have strong patent regimes, yet patent trolls are almost a uniquely American phenomenon.

Now, even taking at face value the assertion that patents are the cause of technological progress, unless you want to say that US technological progress is specifically due to firms whose aim is to purchase patents and then sue end users to extort money relying on their fear of patent litigation, I think it's pretty reasonable to argue that the system could use some improvements. Of course, you should not throw the baby with the bathwater, that's why you have to examine each proposal's merits. In the case of the bill reported in the article, for instance, I don't think it will counteract the patent troll phenomenon at all or change the the system in any meaningful way.

Adam Bishop
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"in spite of the enormous increase in the number of patents and in the strength of their legal protection we have neither seen a dramatic acceleration in the rate of technological progress nor a major increase in the levels of R&D expenditure"

Jeferson Soler
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To a certain extent, I have to agree with Michael Kelley. Make no mistake as I don't like patent/IP trolls, either, but how do we know that the aforementioned bill (which might not even get passed) can be trusted? How do we know that the bill won't have a poison pill or worse? As the saying goes, the Devil is in the details.

TC Weidner
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I see this going nowhere