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Congress Considers Taking a Bite out of the Patent Trolls

Patent trolls—those nefarious entities who clog the courts with frivolous patent lawsuits—are sweating. Patent litigation bills are advancing in both the House and the Senate, and President Obama has vowed to sign reform legislation before leaving office. If the reformers win, the patent trolls will have to scavenge elsewhere, and a broken system that has encouraged litigation rather innovation will finally get fixed.

The House Judiciary Committee has approved the Innovation Act (H.R. 9) by a 24-8 vote. This bipartisan bill would curb abusive patent litigation by requiring plaintiffs to cite specific harms caused by the alleged infringement, shortening the discovery period, and making it easier for interested parties to join the litigation.

It would also shift litigation costs to the losing party if the underlying claim were deemed questionable and require disclosure to the United States Patent and Trademark Office of individuals having an interest in the patent. The bill also allows an innocent customer of an alleged infringing manufacturer to avoid getting entangled in protracted and expensive litigation.

William J. Watkins, Jr. is a Research Fellow at the Independent Institute and author of the Independent Institute books, Crossroads for Liberty, Reclaiming the American Revolution, and Patent Trolls. He received his J.D. cum laude from the University of South Carolina School of Law and is a former law clerk to Judge William B. Traxler, Jr. of the U. S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit.

New from William J. Watkins, Jr.!
CROSSROADS FOR LIBERTY: Recovering the Anti-Federalist Values of America’s First Constitution
What did the American Founders actually intend for the country, and does it even matter today? In a time of increasing turmoil over American history, politics, and society, Crossroads for Liberty takes an eye-opening look at the American Revolution, the Articles of Confederation, and the Constitution, and asks what we can learn from them. Readers will come away with a greater understanding of current political and constitutional issues, as well as a new perspective on American history.