Congressional Research Service Takes On The Question Of Patent Trolls
from the good-research dept
As we’ve discussed in the past, the Congressional Research Service (CRS) produces tons of research for Congress — much of which never sees the light of day. In general, CRS is considered extremely competent and not driven by political and partisan food fights. Reports that come out of CRS usually seem to be careful and thorough. It’s just that we rarely get to see them because, even though they’re technically in the public domain, they’re not automatically released to the public.
Some do get out, however, and the Secrecy News blog has a few recent reports, all of which are fairly interesting, including one on Presidential claims of executive privilege (pdf). However, for folks around here, the one that may be even more interesting is CRS’s exploration of patent trolls (pdf and embedded below), the problems they create, and some possible ways to deal with the problem.
In typical CRS fashion, the report is pretty straightforward, laying out the arguments in a fairly objective way, without taking any particular sides. Even so, it does do a pretty good job of objectively portraying some of the problems with patent trolls, which the report (mostly) refers to under the more diplomatic term “Patent Assertion Entities” (PAE) — though, it does discuss the “patent troll” term a few times. The report makes repeated references to an awful lot of the excellent research that’s been done in the past few years on the subject, including from Bessen & Meurer, Mark Lemley and Colleen Chien. It also relies heavily on the excellent FTC report on the problem of patent trolls, which we discussed last year.
In terms of what to do about the harm caused by patent trolls (and the report notes both potential beneficial aspects and negative ones), the report discussed the recently introduced SHIELD Act, which would aim to put an increased legal burden on trolls who sue indiscriminately against parties who clearly are not violating the patents in question. However, it also suggests a few other possible methods of reform, including carving out different rules for tech patents (though, it admits that might run afoul of some international trade agreements), better notice (i.e., better clarity on the “boundaries” of patents) and my favorite: figuring out ways to reduce the overall “leverage, hold-up and settlement pressure” that leads to patent trolls regularly getting their way, even when the patent is bogus.
All in all, it’s a worthwhile read, and at the very least a useful index of some important research in the field.
Also, randomly, I’m pretty sure (though not positive) that I used to hang out with the author of the report back in college, though I lost touch with him many years ago. Small world.