President Barack Obama is pushing Congress to pass legislation designed to reduce ‘patent trolling‘ — lawsuits filed by companies that only exist to purchase patents and go to court with other companies.
The move comes as Obama prepares to visit Silicon Valley for fundraising this week. Silicon Valley is home to some of the most patent-dependent companies in the United States — companies that have been pushing the government for patent reform.
Among these are Cisco Systems (NASDAQ:CSCO), Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL), and Google (NASDAQ:GOOG), who have been clamoring for legislation that would reduce the number of times each year they are sued for infringement.
The White House has asked Congress to pass bills that would make it easier for federal judges to award legal fees to the winner of a patent case if the judge deems a lawsuit abusive, require companies that sue for infringement to have updated ownership information filed with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, and increase the standards used by the U.S. International Trade Commission to issue injunctions banning sales of products that allegedly violate patents.
Congress has already taken some steps on its own to try and limit patent lawsuit abuse. The judiciary committee heads in both the House and the Senate — Rep. Robert Goodlatte, R-Va. and Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt. — have drafted a bill that would improve access to patent information, reduce discovery burdens in patent cases, and allow judges more tools to discover and dismiss abusive lawsuits early in the litigation process.
Another bill, introduced by Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore. and Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, would force certain plaintiffs who file patent cases and lose to pay all legal fees.
In 2011, companies specializing in patent litigation filed 2,921 lawsuits, 62% of all such cases filed.
— Benjamin Nanamaker, InvestorPolitics Editor
The opinions contained in this column are solely those of the writer.
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