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Patent troll crackdown measure approved by House
Patent troll crackdown measure approved by House
December 5, 2013 | By Alex Wawro

December 5, 2013 | By Alex Wawro
More: Social/Online, Business/Marketing

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.

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Chris Hendricks
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Excellent news! I'm glad this is getting attention.

Off-topic: Why does the "Stopping the Offensive Use of Patents Act" have the acronym STOP? Shouldn't it be SOUP?

Justin Kovac
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Backers wanted to avoid soup nazi jokes.

And STOP sounds better than SOUP.

Stopping The Offensive use of Patents act.

Robert Flesch
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Why would the patent office issues a patent on that?
I see nothing new or unique in the application. Does it make sense to issue a patent for user activated breaking systems for wheeled vehicles in 2013? The avatars customization system (with the possible exception of the added sound. But adding sounds is like making a one click shopping buttons that spinning around and saying it is unique.) that they describe has been around since Meridian 59 and UO, so early 90s at least.
Death to software patents!

Rui Mota
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So instead of addressing the source problem - what can be subject of a patent - they are addressing one of the side effects... by making the trolling process more expensive.

E Zachary Knight
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Well, the original bill language addressed one of the key problems with patent law. It would have implemented an easier way for the patent office to review potentially bad patents and reject them. Lobbyists for Microsoft and other large patent trll companies successfully convinced Goodlatte to drop that language.

This bill is better than nothing. It is better than it could have been. I say we don't complain about it. We should be happy we got this much this time and continue to work on getting more reforms in place.

Jason Bentley
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Another interesting article on patents.

This one is mostly focussed on the practice of “continuation” and how large companies get patents issued by wearing down an examiner over years of repeated re-fillings.

Sean Kiley
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We need loser pays in the US.

Michael Joseph
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from H.R 3309

‘‘(a) AWARD.—The court shall award, to a prevailing
13 party, reasonable fees and other expenses incurred by that
14 party in connection with a civil action in which any party
15 asserts a claim for relief arising under any Act of Con16
gress relating to patents, unless the court finds that the
17 position of the nonprevailing party or parties was substan18
tially justified or that special circumstances make an
19 award unjust.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but this language sounds very much like loser pays to me. There's a potential dark side though. If the final bill retains this language and becomes law, then the consequences are that if you're taken to court by a troll and you lose, you must also pay the trolls attorney fees.

Seems to me this law would give extra munition to trolls to encourage their targets to pay them off rather than fight them because of the doubly expensive prospect of losing. One may be inclined to believe that if they are in the right they'll win and so the issue is moot, but in capitalistic justice system sometimes you lose as a consequence of not being able to afford the best lawyers or sustain the best through a long drawn out period of litigation.

Or maybe I'm misinterpreting the legalese.

Adam Merkel
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...We could also repeal the CTEA (aka Sunny Bono Act), the Copyright Act of 1976, and make corporate authorship invalid for a copyright or patent admission. Patents and copyrights should be for the work of an individual or small group of individuals, and should be actively protected and updated by those individuals much like licenses. And if the individual or individuals are dead? It should go into public domain within the next year. What good are royalties and permissions to dead people?

Oh, and don't let the little black rat tell you what to do. They are known to harbor the carriers of plague, after all.

Alan Boody
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Yeah, there's a lot of things that make sense for innovation and public interest. Unfortunately, the US is driven by the bottom line that trumps innovation and public interest. This is a battle that big corporations will throw lobbyists, lawyers and massive marketing campaigns at to fight. Perception will win out for them.

Katherine Luke
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Yes this should happen; people should get punishment for the abusive use of patent laws. One should not misuse the patent laws which are meant for good purpose. Sometimes we get problem in determining that whether our ideas need to be patent or what exactly ,are the conditions behind patent rights. A good patent consultant will better guide on these issues.