House Approves (Weakened) Anti-Patent Trolling Bill, Now We Wait For The Senate

from the a-step-forward dept

Earlier today, after some debate on various amendments, the House overwhelmingly approved the Innovation Act by a vote of 325-91. There had been some attempts to completely wipe out the key clauses of the bill. Reps. John Conyers and Mel Watt (two of the biggest SOPA supporters) supported an amendment that basically made the entire bill useless, claiming they were afraid that the current bill would somehow harm good, hardworking patent trolls. The reality is that they wanted to kill the fee-shifting provision that makes the loser pay the legal fees of the other side. Trial lawyers tend to hate fee-shifting. Thankfully that proposal was rejected, though I find it amusing that Watt and Conyers claimed to be so worried about "rushing" into patent law changes, when they'd been so eager to support massive copyright changes in SOPA.

Unfortunately, the bill that did pass had already been watered down by Rep. Bob Goodlatte (who sponsored the overall bill), when he was convinced by heavy lobbying from Microsoft, IBM and a few other large patent holders to remove the "covered business method" program from the bill. That's the program that lets the USPTO more quickly review and toss out bad patents it never should have granted. The only reason I can think not to have that program in there is... if you happen to have a lot of really crappy patents. Thankfully, it appears there's more support for such a program on the Senate side, though Microsoft is still lobbying hard on this.

And, that brings us to the Senate side. While there's a bill out there, it's unclear when it'll actually come to the floor for a vote -- almost certainly not until next year. Plus there's still lots of lobbying against the whole thing, so this could collapse into nothing. But, in the short run, it's at least a big step towards stopping the worst patent trolls out there.


Reader Comments (rss)

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    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 5th, 2013 @ 5:05pm

    Fee shifting

    Fee shifting is great for those who win for good reasons, but it sucks for those who lose despite having good reason to win. As any Techdirt reader surely know, it happens a lot.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Dec 5th, 2013 @ 7:34pm

      Re: Fee shifting

      I suggest that the troll should pay court costs and attorney fees for both parties, no matter what the outcome is. Does not matter if you are an NPE or an overly litigious crap hound ... you pay.

      This just might put an end to the outrageous circus presently known as intellectual property.

       

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      Anonymous Coward, Dec 6th, 2013 @ 6:14am

      Re: Fee shifting

      As opposed to the current system, where even once you win for a good reason you're put out of business if you aren't a giant mega-corporation.

      At least with a loser-pays system small companies unjustly sued aren't put in a lose-lose situation.

       

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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 5th, 2013 @ 9:11pm

    Dana Rohrabacher has an interesting article that mentions why this House bill is fraught with unintended consequences that make it only too clear this bill is about "The Big Un's" feathering their legal nest by swatting away pests. Yes, there are some neer-do-wells who work at gaming the system, just like virtually all other areas of law. The bill, however, is not content with targeting just them...it targets a universe in a manner akin to the NSA's data collection of straw piles containing a needle somewhere within. His article can be found at:

    http://www.nationalreview.com/article/365496/read-patent-bill-dana-rohrabacher

     

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      Mike Masnick (profile), Dec 6th, 2013 @ 1:36am

      Re:

      Dana Rohrabacher has an interesting article that mentions why this House bill is fraught with unintended consequences that make it only too clear this bill is about "The Big Un's" feathering their legal nest by swatting away pests.

      That article is so full of wrong it's not even funny. That's an article from a supporter of patent trolling. This bill doesn't go nearly far enough in swatting down patent trolls, but whining about how this will harm those poor poor patent trolls. Come on. You're so transparent.

      Yes, there are some neer-do-wells who work at gaming the system, just like virtually all other areas of law.

      Uh, no. The MAJORITY of the system is gamed by neer-do-wells at this point. The system is broken. Look, I know it's been a big part of your life, and you can't see through the massive blinders you have on reality, but you're simply wrong about this one. The patent system is broken. This is a small fix that will only hurt the worst of the worst. It needs to go further.

       

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        Anonymous Coward, Dec 6th, 2013 @ 7:13am

        Re: Re:

        Why not try understanding actual facts (which have been published in journals, news articles, op-eds, etc.) before patting yourself on the back for having tremendous insight into a "problem" of limited scope?

        Rohrabacher has a pretty good handle on what he is talking about because he has either read the House bill or has talked with one or more persons who are familiar with its substantive provisions and their ramifications in real life situations. To say his article is "wrong" confirms to me that you are talking virtually exclusively with the very group of people in the Silicon Valley Garden of Eden who are promoting this bill.

        The majority of litigation is not being gamed by neer-do-wells, as even a casual perusal of peer reviewed studies conclude. If anyone has blinders, it is you wearing a pair with a microradia FOV. The patent system is not broken, something you would never admit because it does not fit your propagandizing.

        Try and keep this in mind. This bill, if ever enacted, would work a 180 reversal (limited solely to patent law no less) of a fundamental tenet of our legal system from the classical "American System" to that of the "English System". There are pros and cons for each, but for people to advocate a reversal of centuries old system without so much as a discussion of the pros and cons is intellectually lazy and a disservice to the development of US law. The same can be said of the pleading provision that would also single out patent litigation for unique treatment under the FRCP.

        I will pass by other deficiencies because they get a bit technical, but will note that the "customer stay" will almost certainly prove to be a mere speed bump that is easily nullified, leaving the ones actually hurt by it those litigants who are not abusing the system.

        Do not get me wrong. There are parts of the bill that do appear to have merit, but using a shotgun to swat a fly is absurd and unnecessary.

        S. 1720 suffers from many of the same issues noted above, but at least Leahy et. al has had the good sense to try and craft a bill that is more specifically targeted.

         

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    pixelation, Dec 5th, 2013 @ 10:07pm

    Let's hope the Senate is as tired of MS as the rest of us.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 6th, 2013 @ 1:49am

    Having to pay your own fees enables large companies to put small newcomers out of business by simply threatening, or occasionally bring a law suite. That is not justice, that is empowering those with money, allowing them to maintain their power by bankrupting any competition.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Dec 6th, 2013 @ 5:09am

      Re:

      And apparently no repercussions for felony extortion.

       

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      John Fenderson (profile), Dec 6th, 2013 @ 9:19am

      Re:

      Having to pay your own fees enables large companies to put small newcomers out of business by simply threatening, or occasionally bring a law suite.


      Which is exactly things are right now, without this bill. So on this point, at worst, the bill does not make anything worse.

       

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    radarmonkey (profile), Dec 6th, 2013 @ 6:45am

    Missing Amendment

    I would have loved to see an Amendment to the Bill that declared East Texas ineligible for making any legal decisions on patents. They waste everyone's time with the morons they have there deciding these cases.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 6th, 2013 @ 7:38am

    Loser pays is bad... here is why

    A loser pays system only gives more weight to those with more money.

    We already know that the court system has long left the idea of arriving at the truth in cases now, it is more posturing, bullying, and foreplay than anything else now.

    Those with genuine cause to sue for relief from money conglomerates will be hesitant to even seek relief because regardless of how obvious their claim is, they could still lose on some sneaky bullshit technicality.

    Those with ill intent but deep pockets or sneaky designs will keep suing by setting up shell lawyer companies to absorb all of the losses to avoid having to pay for real losses leaving them to continue to sue over and over again through subsidiaries and partners until they exhaust their opponent.

    Nothing is more amazing than all the idiots running around in the world 'thinking' they know the solution to this problem when they are not even thinking about it from the proper perspective to begin with.

     

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