Patent troll haters, take heart: Reuters reports
the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill explicitly designed to punish companies for abusive use of patents today, clearing the way for a similar bill to go before the Senate and potentially become law.
Bill H.R. 3309
, a.k.a. the Innovation Act, was sponsored by Representative Robert Goodlatte (R-VA) in October and approved this week by the House, 325 to 91. Senate Judiciary Committee member Patrick Leahy (D-VT) is bringing a similar bill before the Senate on December 17; if it passes the two bills will be gently edited and combined into new legistation that will hopefully provide clearer rules for distinguishing when a patent is applicable -- what counts as initial discovery, for example -- and require people filing patent abuse pleas to provide more information up front about specifics like what patents are being infringed and how, exactly, they're being infringed.
Small changes like that could hamper companies who try to abuse the system by buying up patents for the purpose of suing other companies for potential patent infringement, as when Treehouse Avatar Technologies tried to intimidate a number of smaller MMO developers into paying
a licensing fee earlier this year.
This isn't the first anti-troll bill to make news in Washington -- there are a number of similar propositions languishing in Congress, including the "Stopping the Offensive Use of Patents (STOP) Act" proposed back in July
-- but Reuters reports that Goodlatte and Leahy's bills are believed to have the best shot at actually being written into law.
These changes could also potentially hamper folks seeking reparations for legitimate patent infringement, as the Innovation Act affords more power to defendants in patent lawsuits and makes such lawsuits more difficult to initiate.