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U.S. House Passes ‘Patent Trolls’ Legislation

The bill aims to reduce the number of non-meritorious patent lawsuits.
December 6, 2013

​WASHINGTON, D.C. – Yesterday, the U.S. House of Representatives approved a measure that would reduce the number of frivolous patent lawsuits, which pull time and resources from companies that might instead have created new jobs, The Hill reports.

H.R. 3309, the Innovation Act, passed by a 325-91 vote, with both Democrats and Republicans supporting the measure. President Obama is in favor of the bill and Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) is sponsoring a Senate companion to the bill, which he intends to move early next year.

NACS, along with a broad coalition of merchant and technology groups and companies, advocated strongly for passage of the legislation.  The bill aims to deter people from filing non-meritorious patent lawsuits against businesses — both large and small — in order to receive a fast settlement. “The tens of billions of dollars spent on settlements and litigation expenses associated with abusive patent suits represent truly wasted capital,” said Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), who sponsored the bill. “The patent system was never intended to be a playground for litigation extortion and frivolous claims.”

Rep. Peter Welch (D-VT) supported the bill, too, and illustrated just how detrimental such lawsuits can be with a story of someone claiming to have a patent on Internet browsing via a mobile device, who then sued a Vermont business. “This was a stickup,” he said. “Patent trolling is a total and complete abuse of the patent system, and a total rip-off of hardworking people.”

Opponents of the bill said that small inventors would be the losers. “Every time you hear the word ‘troll,’ what you’re hearing is a manipulation of this debate by some very special interests, powerful interest, who want to steal from the independent inventor,” said Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA).

Due to the way legislative jurisdiction is divided among congressional committees, the bill did not have extensive reforms to deal with the problem of abusive patent demand letters — a priority for NACS — but Reps. Goodlatte, Lee Terry (R-NE), and Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) discussed the need for additional legislation during the floor debate on the bill and the intention of the House Energy and Commerce Committee (specifically, the subcommittee chaired by Rep. Terry) to move legislation early next year to provide reforms to help stem the tide of meritless demand letters.