Bob Goodlatte is on a quest to slay trolls, but will he crush the source of their power?

by on September 24, 2013 · 0 comments

The new discussion draft from Rep. Goodlatte is now circulating publicly. Here is a good summary from the EFF of what the legislation would do:

  • Heightened Pleading: Requiring a patent holder to provide basic details (such as which patents and claims are at issue, as well as exactly what products allegedly infringe and how) when it files a lawsuit.
  • Fee shifting: Requiring the loser in a patent case to pay attorney’s fees and costs. This would make it harder for trolls to use the extraordinary expense of patent litigation to force a settlement.
  • Transparency: The draft includes strong language requiring patent trolls to reveal the parties that would actually benefit from the litigation (called the real party in interest).
  • Joinder: If the plaintiff is a shell-company patent troll, the defendant could require the real party in interest to join the litigation. Even better, a prevailing defendant could collect attorney’s fees from the real party in interest if the patent troll can’t or won’t pay.
  • Staying customer suits: Requiring courts to stay patent litigation against customers when there is parallel litigation against the manufacturer.
  • Discovery reform: Shutting down expensive and often harassing discovery until the court has interpreted the patent. This should make it easier for defendants to dispose of frivolous cases early before the legal fees and court costs really add up.
  • Post-grant review: The bill expands an important avenue to challenge a patent’s validity at the Patent Office (known as the transitional program for covered business method patents). While this procedure is still too expensive for many of the trolls’ smaller targets, we support efforts to make it easier to knock out bad patents.

These are excellent steps forward in the fight against patent trolls, but I’m still hoping for more. The explosion in patent litigation, both troll and non-troll, is due to the astonishing increase in the number of software patents. Software patents now make up over half of all patents! Software patents are more likely to be litigated than other kinds of patents, including four times more likely than a chemical patent.

Given the extent to which the problems with our patent system are caused by software patents, it is unfortunate that none of the patent reform bills under consideration in this Congress contemplate simply excluding software from the set of patentable subject matter. By all means, slay the trolls. But also go after the source of their power.

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