US patent troll bill clears House

The US House of Representatives has passed the Innovation Act by a huge majority despite opposition from universities which had been making a tidy sum flogging patents to trolls.

The Innovation Act was designed to restrain patent trolls and cleared the US House of Representatives with a majority of 325 to 91.

Sponsored by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte, the bill aims to put an end to abuse of the patent system and make the necessary changes to ensure that it serves its purpose of protecting innovators and their inventions.

The law will make it harder for trolls to send a patent infringement letter and raises the stakes for filing and losing a case.

Under the Innovation Act, a troll needs to list which patents and parts of patents are being infringed and name the offending products or processes as part of any letter. This prevents vague letters demanding money or threatening a more expensive court case. This means that before a troll sends a letter they will have to go through a lengthy and expensive discovery. If a plaintiff loses, they’ll have to pay court costs.

The bill will be most effective against indiscriminate bulk filers, who send letters to both producers and consumers of technology claiming ownership of basic techniques like scanning and emailing a document.

It will probably not stop larger trolls who are willing to take select cases to court. Intellectual Ventures and IP Nav, have expressed tentative support or mixed feelings for the bill which probably means they can get around it.

There was a huge lobby against the bill by the likes of IBM, Microsoft, General Electric, and Adobe and the universities, which make a pile of dosh though their huge patent portfolios.

However the feeling has been that the way things are dealt with now people are more obsessed with patents than they are about inventing things. The current system encourages inventors to be secretive and avoid publication of data before the “technology transfer office” has been able to file as many patents as it can.

Only a few US universities have benefited from the current system and most lose cash on it.