New Bill Would Stop Patent Trolls From Hiding Behind Shell Companies
from the about-time dept
We’ve talked in the past about how patent trolling operations love to use shell companies to hide who actually owns the patents. Intellectual Ventures has thousands of shells, but it’s even worse in many cases when it’s smaller trolls, where no one has any idea who’s actually behind the trolling. You may remember a few years back, when Reddit, Digg, Fark, Slashdot and others were sued over a bogus patent held by a shell company called “Gooseberry Natural Resources LLC,” and we wondered if the collective communities behind those sites might be able to figure out who actually owned the patent in question. But even those hive minds failed to turn up much of use.
Thankfully, Rep. Ted Deutch has introduced a bill that would require a true disclosure of the owners of patents that are being used in litigation. Specifically, the bill would require a much clearer accounting of who “any real party in interest” would be concerning any patent. Failure to do so would mean that it would limit the ability of those patent owners to collect on any damages. Specifically, patent owners can only collect on damages that occur after the true owners of the patent are disclosed. This would help a tremendous amount, since so much in the patent troll world today is done in incredibly shady ways. It is believed that a very large number of patent trolling operations are actually run by patent lawyers themselves, who saw how lucrative it was, but who don’t want to be publicly identified with their trolling. Forcing the actual owners to identify themselves would be a big help in making sure that people actually understand what’s happening with patent trolling.
It’s interesting to see Congress suddenly interested in patent reform again, even if in a piecemeal fashion. After spending nearly a decade fighting over a “comprehensive” patent reform bill that became the America Invents Act (a watered-down, mostly useless, bill) we kept hearing people say that patent reform was “done” in Congress. But in the past few months, three key bills have been introduced, each targeting the patent trolling problem. There was Rep. DeFazio’s SHIELD Act, which would make it easier to shift fees and make trolls responsible for the costs of bogus lawsuits. Then, a few weeks ago, there was Senator Schumer’s bill to make it easier to get tech patents reviewed relatively quickly by the USPTO to see if we can throw out more bad patents. And now this bill, called the End Anonymous Patents Act, from Rep. Deutch.
So far, none of the bills has received much momentum, but it’s good to see that more and more people in Congress are realizing that the patent system is incredibly broken, and that trolls are a big part of that.