America’s esteemed lawmakers want heavy penalties for those who abuse the patent system. A bipartisan bill has been proposed to force so-called patent trolls, those who hoard patents for the sole purpose of suing innovators, to pay the legal costs if their frivolous patent lawsuits fail in court. The Saving High-Tech Innovators from Egregious Legal Disputes (SHIELD) Act has been widely praised by major tech companies and acronym enthusiasts.
“Patent trolls add no economic benefit to our nation,” said co-sponsor Representative Jason Chaffetz (CrunchGov Grade: A). Indeed, one study found that trolling activity accounts for 61 percent of all patent disputes.
Penalties for patent trolls have support from two influential people in the government: President Obama and the new chair of the House Judiciary Committee. During a Google+ hangout earlier this month, Obama said, “They don’t actually produce anything themselves. They’re just trying to essentially leverage and hijack someone else’s idea to see if they can extort some money out of them.”
Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte (CrunchGov Grade: C), who helps set the congressional technology agenda, said he wants “to focus on reforms to discourage frivolous patent litigation and keep U.S. patent laws up to date.”
In a refutation op-ed for The Hill, CEO of General Patent Corporation, Alexander Poltorak, argued that supporters of the SHIELD Act overestimate the number of frivolous lawsuits against software patent holders and claimed it was designed to “intimidate patent owners whose IP rights are routinely infringed by corporate bullies.”
The updated version of the SHIELD Act will expand the provisions from tech firms to all industries.