In his State of the Union address, President Obama promised to go it alone on many issues, but there is one issue where he will find Congress to be a willing partner: ending patent trolling.
Over the past year, Democrats and Republicans have quickly coming together to try to solve this growing area of litigation abuse that has been vexing America’s high-tech economy. In these lawsuits, shell businesses called Patent Assertion Entities (PAEs) – or derogatorily “patent trolls” – game the patent litigation system. They purchase dormant patents, wait for others to independently develop comparable technology, and then file patent infringement suits which is a strict liability tort. As the President explained last year, PAEs “don’t actually produce anything themselves.” They ‘see if they can extort some money’ by claiming they own technology others developed.
The President has made good on his promise to step up his efforts to stop patent litigation abuse. In his State of the Union address, he made a short, but important call for reform, saying “let’s pass a patent reform bill that allows our businesses to stay focused on innovation, not costly and needless litigation.”
At the end of last year, the House passed Judiciary Chairman Goodlatte’s bill to reform the patent and litigation systems by a 325 to 91 vote – a rare, large bipartisan margin. Around the same time, Senate Judiciary Chairman Leahy introduced his own bill with some, but not all of these measures. It is time for everyone to come together and get something done.
The American people want their government to work again, and patent troll reform has a strong chance to succeed even in today’s bitter political climate. Democrats and Republicans both understand that patent trolling is pure litigation prospecting. It does not serve justice or inventors. Leaders of both parties should heed the President’s renewed call to pass patent troll reforms that support innovation, both as an American ideal and as a way to create jobs for the American people.