A bill has passed the House of Representatives today making it much more difficult for patent trolls to get away with filing frivolous suits. The Innovation Act, introduced by Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), is aimed at dissuading frivolous lawsuits being filed by penalizing those who attempt vague, often misleading patent suits. The bill passed by a vote of 325 to 91.
An important step forward in patent reform, The Innovation Act is meant not to be sweeping change to the patent system, but fix the issue of lawsuits which often don’t have merit. By asking that those who file the suit point out which portion of the patent they feel is being used improperly, avoiding the discovery process until after a judge has reviewed the case.
Additionally, the if the plaintiff fails to win a judgement to proceed, they face court costs, which could be the gift and curse of this bill. Smaller entities may find it difficult to protect their patents or services due to the cost of first filing — then potentially losing — a meritorious case. This bill is a bit of a precursor to the Patent Transparency and Improvement Act still being discussed in the Senate.
The aim here is to slow down or stop bulk filings. Some will simply send misleading letters in an attempt to make small gains, essentially circumventing the process altogether. Settling out of court is often seen as less trouble against a large entity, but bills like this one could help to end those types of transactions. By pointing to the specifics of a claim, then facing penalties for losing the court’s favor, trolling could come to a trickle, if not a standstill.