Thursday, February 28, 2013

Death to the Patent Trolls?

The advent of “patent troll” companies has seriously perverted the already-perverted world of intellectual property law.  These companies acquire portfolios of patents (or the rights to those patents) with the intent to prosecute companies alleged to be infringing them.  The key word there is “alleged”.  Patent trolls are frequently accused (almost certainly accurately) of bringing actions that they are sure to lose – because they know that the accused companies will often (most of the time, in fact) pay a settlement just to make the lawsuit go away.

Many have noted that the patent trolls are enabled by a feature of American law: that the winner of a lawsuit like this still pays their own legal expenses.  Under English law, the loser pays for both sides legal expenses.  This “loser pays” system greatly discourages frivolous lawsuits, as the side with a good defense is willing to pay for that defense, knowing that if they win the other side is going to pay the entire expense.

Now that same “loser pays” system is being proposed for the U.S. – but only for suits brought by patent trolls.  Defining a patent troll is trickier than it might appear.  Here's an article about the proposed bill, and here's the EFF's statement of support for it...

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