The Patent Reform Act of 2007

by Ted Frank on February 22, 2008

My latest Liability Outlook is on the Patent Reform Act of 2007:

Despite some in the media calling patent reform dead, on January 24, 2008, the Senate placed S. 1145, the Patent Reform Act of 2007, on the general calendar. The next few weeks will be critical to the legislation, which the House passed in September. Although much of the discussion has focused on the different perspectives and concerns that the high tech and the biotech/pharma industries have about the legislation, the fact remains that the patent litigation system is broken. Congress should make every effort to fix it by writing into this legislation reasonable formulas for damage awards and venue rules that discourage forum-shopping. …

Affiliates of Erich Spangenberg’s Plutus IP have sued 476 different defendants in 42 lawsuits. The vast majority of those lawsuits allege infringements of patents that Plutus IP purchased for $1,000. The use of invalid patents in litigation is more than theoretical. Philip Jackson sued his attorneys, Chicago plaintiffs firm Niro, Scavone, Haller & Niro, for malpractice after his $12.1 million jury verdict against Glenayre Electronics Inc. was reduced to under $3 million; Niro challenged the malpractice suit by claiming that th e patent Jackson had successfully enforced was invalid. In 2006, approximately 6,000 defendants were sued in 2,800 patent cases; in 2007, the six thousand mark was reached in early October, implying a 30 percent increase in patent litigation in a single year. Such litigation stifles substantial technological innovation. Patent trolls claim to block entire fields, and one cannot hope to innovate in these areas without the financial capital to handle the threat of patent litigation. IBM has 370 corporate patent attorneys, not just to avoid the pitfalls of infringement, but to create a patent portfolio that can provide counterclaims (or cross-licensing opportunities) if a commercial entity were to sue them for infringement. Since the late 1990s, patent litigation costs have outstripped patent profits.