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Speak Up! Contact Your Senators To Fight Patent Trolls

If you want to make a difference in the fight against patent trolls and influence real patent reform, contact your senator today. Today is the day (I’ll explain exactly why later). Tell them we need real patent reform.

Go ahead, I’ll wait. Here’s a handy link you can use, courtesy of the Coalition for Patent Fairness: http://cqrcengage.com/stoppatenttrolls/home.

Ok. All set? Perfect.

So why is today such an important day in the fight against patent trolls? There is a one-two punch happening right now that could TKO patent trolls and inspire true patent reform.

First, the Rackspace legal duo of Alan Schoenbaum and Mary Stich went to Washington to observe arguments in Alice Corp v. CLS bank in the Supreme Court. This case is crucial in helping draw lines around what software is patentable, and why. This one is in the hands of the court now, but Rackspace participated in a friend of the court brief expressing why software patents are a problem. We’re eagerly waiting to hear the court’s decision.

Also today, in the legislature, various Senators and their staffs are debating patent reform. They will debate all week. If you want your voice heard, contact your Senator today. The Senate negotiations will shape what patent reform will look like.

These discussions follow the US House of Representatives last December passing a bill that includes a number of necessary reforms to influence true change in the patent system. That bill, the Innovation Act, aims to:

  •  Force patent trolls to say what people are supposedly doing that infringes a patent (“heightened pleading” or “genuine pleading”)
  • Stop letting the people financing trolls hide behind shell companies (“joinder”)
  • Force courts to focus on the technical matters first – no investigating random stuff before identifying what the patent really means (“limiting discovery before Markman”)
  • Make patent trolls pay the legal bills when they lose (“fee shifting”)

The Senate is negotiating this same set of reforms right now, but there are people trying to stop the Innovation Act, water it down and make it ineffective. In fact, the opposition is trying to remove some of the best tools we have for challenging bad patents (such as using the “Broadest Reasonable Interpretation” when challenging patents in the USPTO).

At Rackspace, we have been active in working to solve the patent troll problem. We are not alone – last year we wrote about the army forming to fight patent trolls – but we have reached the critical point where it is time for everyone to speak up and use the power of many to enact reform.

Predictably, there are those who are on the other side of this fight. Front organizations like “Save the inventor” are funded by patent trolls. We’ve seen opposition to reforms from various groups that make their profits from attorney’s fees. There are also a number of well-meaning but misinformed people who worry that reducing the patent troll problem will lead to less innovation and fewer jobs.

They are wrong. Innovation dies when patent trolls go after individual developers. Jobs are lost when companies go bankrupt spending millions on patent defense instead of on research and development. Investor Mark Cuban went so far as to call patent trolls “the greatest business risk you don’t know about.”

No matter where you are in the country, it is time to take action. This is the time to contact your senator and have your voice heard in this necessary fight.

If you are in New York you should contact Senator Charles Schumer to support reforms that help us improve patent quality – in particular keeping the BRI standard and expressing support for reviewing terrible Covered Business Method (CBM) patents.

If you are in Vermont, please contact Senator Patrick Leahy to tell him that real, strong patent reform is vital.

Those of us in Texas should thank Senator John Cornyn for his work on this issue – he is the leading negotiator trying to make sure that we have real patent reform. You can also encourage Senator Ted Cruz to vote for real patent reforms.

A number of other Senators on the committee evaluating the new legislation are crucial to getting real reform. These include Senators Richard Blumenthal (Connecticut), Amy Klobuchar (Minnesota), Dianne Feinstein (California), Sheldon Whitehouse (Rhode Island), Orrin Hatch (Utah) and Chuck Grassley (Iowa). If you are from any of these states, we strongly encourage you to reach out and urge them to support strong, meaningful reform.

If you are anywhere else, please contact your senators anyway. In a month or so patent reform will come up for a vote before the full Senate, and everyone’s support will be needed.

And in case you didn’t do it before, here’s a very helpful link you can use to contact your local Senator: http://cqrcengage.com/stoppatenttrolls/home.

Thank you for joining the fight.

About the Author

This is a post written and contributed by Van Lindberg.

Van Lindberg is Vice President of Intellectual Property at Rackspace. He is trained as a computer engineer and lawyer, but what he does best is “translate” to help businesses, techies and attorneys understand each other.

Van likes working with both computer code and legal code. For the past several years, he has been using natural language processing and graph theory to help him digest and map the U.S. Patent Database.

Before becoming a lawyer, Van was a research and development engineer at NTT/Verio, where he built automation tools and distributed systems using mostly Python. He was also an IT administrator for the Harold B. Lee College of Education at his alma mater, Brigham Young University. Van has been involved with open source since 1994, when a friend introduced him to Linux.

In April 2012, the American Bar Association Journal named Van one of “America’s Top 12 Techiest Attorneys.” He is currently chairman of the board of the Python Software Foundation, as well as the author of “Intellectual Property and Open Source.”


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