Today, the ongoing war against patent trolls and the push for sorely-needed patent law reform took a massive step forward. House Judiciary Chairman Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) introduced the Innovation Act of 2013, a long-awaited, aggressive piece of legislation that aims to thwart patent trolls and their spurious lawsuits. Chairman Goodlatte and his staff have been working hard on this bill for several months. They sought and received input from literally hundreds of stakeholders, including American businesses, members of Congress, the US Patent Office, prominent patent lawyers, judges, trade associations and educators. This is a well-thought out piece of legislation.
Importantly, the Innovation Act has strong bipartisan support and is co-sponsored by Reps. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), Howard Coble (R-NC), Peter Defazio (D-OR), Anna Eshoo (D-CA), Lamar Smith (R-TX), Tom Marino (R-PA), Spencer Bachus (R-AL), George Holding (R-NC) and Blake Farenthold (R-TX). This is a powerful line-up of influential members of Congress, which gives the bill a great chance of getting through the House and eventually to President Obama, who is a strong proponent of anti-patent trolling legislation.
The Innovation Act of 2013 takes a multi-pronged approach to end litigation abuse by patent trolls. Once it is enacted, companies who find themselves in patent trolls' crosshairs will have more weapons with which to defend themselves, and it is likely that many of the most abusive cases will no longer be filed.
One way it does this is by shifting the financial burden and requiring the loser in a patent case to pay the winner's attorney fees and costs. This move takes away the trolls' strongest weapon: the ability to extort a settlement because the costs to battle it in court are often too steep. If a troll sues and loses, the troll pays legal fees; it's that simple.
The 51-page bill also adds a new level of transparency to the patent litigation process. First, it requires a patent holder, at the time the suit is filed, to offer more details around the patents in question and the claims. Trolls must provide information around what specific products infringe and how they infringe. Second, it requires patent trolls, who often hide under the cover of anonymity, to disclose the parties who benefit financially from the litigation.
Bills like the Innovation Act of 2013 can spark real change in Congress and have the potential to protect innovation while making it increasingly more difficult for patent trolls to manipulate the legal and patent systems to extort money from businesses large and small. Rackspace encourages developers, business owners and private citizens to support this bill by contacting their representative. The Application Developers Alliance has created a simple web tool to send a letter of support, or you can use the House of Representatives website contact tool. Either way, please voice your support of this important cause.