Wednesday, April 29, 2015

WSJ - Senate Tees Up Bipartisan Bill Aimed at Patent Litigation

Today, I suggest reading the WSJ article Senate Tees Up Bipartisan Bill Aimed at Patent Litigation:

"Last year, the House of Representative cast a vote in support of patent reform, specifically for measures intended to clamp down on a flood of patent lawsuits. Corporate defendants, academics and others thought plaintiffs were abusing the court system, filing 'nuisance' lawsuits that were likely to trigger quick settlements. But the Senate's effort to play ball with the House died amid a flurry of finger-pointing. Earlier this year, the House reintroduced its bill — the Innovation Act — and Wednesday afternoon, the Senate offered up a companion to the House bill that seems to have bipartisan support among some influential senators. The bill was introduced by Sens. Charles Schumer (D., N.Y.); John Cornyn (R., Texas);Senate Judiciary Chairman Charles Grassley (R., Iowa) and that committee’s ranking Democrat, Patrick Leahy (D., Vt).

This bipartisan bill shifts the legal burden back onto those who would abuse the patent system in order to make a quick buck at the expense of businesses that are playing by the rules," said Sen. Schumer, in a statement. 'I'm hopeful we can move quickly and in a bipartisan way to get this bill passed in committee and on the Senate floor this summer.'"

The article gives a summary of the Innovation Act that loses me on several points. The article never talks the dramatic decrease in patent infringement lawsuits last year. Is this carelessness or related to the sources of the article? It fails to talk about the defendants overwhelming success in the America Invents Act (AIA) trials. Defendants have had a long losing streak there, and the Innovation Act seeks to remove the estoppel provisions. Why isn't this discussed? The article exaggerates support for patent reform in 2014. It didn't die because of "finger pointing" in Congress. It died because it changed decades of how we conduct patent litigation. Congress hit a snag because it tried to pass laws that would weaken patent owner rights. Each party pays its own attorney fees unless it's an exceptional case in the USA to encourages patent owners to come to court if they cannot settle a patent infringement case. However, the Bill proposes mandatory attorney fee shifting for losers in patent litigation. Mandatory fee shifting would reduce patent troll lawsuits, but would also discourage patent owners with legitimate claims. It proposes to tilt the playing field further in favor of big companies who can shift all their legal fees on small companies who make the mistake of suing for patent infringement and losing the case.

I don't know if patent reform will pass this year. What seems more certain to me is tech lobbyists will push for patent reform (even reviving what failed) and present it as in the public interest and protecting us from those patent trolls. It's getting impossible to not conclude it's really about lowering costs of doing business (e.g., paying patent licenses) of big tech in the USA.

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