Could a new bill be the end of patent trolls as we know them? The U.S. government sure hopes so, as the Oct. 23 introduction of the Innovation Act of 2013 seeks to eliminate current problems with frivolous lawsuits.
The bill, introduced by Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), would require the loser in a patent suit to pay the winner’s legal fees, stop the plaintiff from demanding excessive documents from the defendant before the ruling is made, and inhibit shell companies. The goal is to dissuade non-practicing entities (NPEs) from engaging in cases with high litigation costs, seeking to gain a settlement from the larger company.
The Innovation Act is just one of many bills that have been introduced in Congress seeking to limit NPEs from engaging in frivolous litigation. The SHIELD Act would force certain types of non-practicing entity plaintiffs to pay the costs and attorneys’ fees of a defendant who prevails on issues of infringement or invalidity. The Patent Abuse Reduction Act of 2013, meanwhile, would shift both general fees as well as certain recovery costs. And Goodlatte’s own Patent Discussion Draft would require the Judicial Conference of the United States to consider NPEs more closely.
This Goodlatte bill, though, may be the one that has seen the most traction. The Innovation Act currently holds bipartisan support in the House of Representatives.
Patent reform lobbyists see the bill as a step in the right direction. Advocacy group the Electronic Frontier Foundation writes, “Taken together, these reforms would make life much harder for patent trolls and make the world safer for true innovators.”
However, not all are pleased by these developments. Judge Kathleen O’Malley of the Federal Circuit has taken issue with the idea of fee shifting in the past, saying that the fervor of the legislative branch to address NPEs will improperly invade the role of the judiciary and erode the protections afforded by a balanced three-branch government.