A House panel approves a bill aimed at patent demand letters that are in bad faith or based on invalid patents [Reuters]
Sen. Harry Reid seems to have been central:
“We felt really good the last couple of days,” said the tech lobbyist. “It was a good deal—one we could live with. Then the trial lawyers and pharma went to Senator Reid late this morning and said that’s it. Enough with the children playing in the playground—go kill it.”…
Trial lawyers are heavy donors to Democratic politicians, including Reid. … The long history of the divide over other kinds of legal tort reform loomed over the bill, which was dubbed the Innovation Act in the House. The fact that it was the trial lawyers’ lobby that reportedly delivered the death blow suggests that the rift only got wider as debate dragged on.
Key Litigation Lobby allies like Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) spoke out against the legislation on the Senate floor. [Joe Mullin, ArsTechnica]
Mike Masnick on a jury verdict against Newegg: “Having Whit Diffie (who invented public key cryptography) and Ron Rivest (who basically made it practical in real life) present on your behalf, showing that they did everything prior to Jones’ patent, while further showing that what Newegg was doing relied on their work, not Jones’, should have ended the case. But…” [TechDirt; Joe Mullin, Ars Technica]
Prevailing parties in patent suits can win attorneys’ fees from losing opponents in cases deemed “exceptional.” “Under the test used to identify exceptional cases, cases must be objectively baseless and brought in bad faith.” That is already a painfully narrow exception, allowing for large volumes of poorly founded litigation, but two cases before the Supreme Court this term may provide clarity on when courts can deem cases “exceptional” and suitable for a fee shift. Broader use of fee shifts — presumably by way of deeming at least some swath of losing cases “exceptional” — would be one way of addressing the patent troll problem that would not call for new legislation. [ABA Journal, related, Corporate Counsel (arguments that judiciary can deal with trolls on its own]
In other developments, the Federal Trade Commission has voted to proceed with an inquiry into the patent troll problem [New York Times] and the Government Accountability Office has released a long-awaited report on the issue [Mike Hogan and Gregory Hillyer, Legal Intelligencer]
“I’m sure you realize the asymmetry in the financial resources of our respective companies when you say: ‘We will both just end up paying a lot of lawyers a lot of money.'” [TheVerge.com]
Competition through patent suits, circa 1857: I’ve got a new post at Cato on how loser-pays works to improve the general fairness of an inevitably imperfect litigation system.
A pretty graphic depicting a not-so-pretty situation [Design Language News; more, FlowingData] Related: “When Patents Attack,” NPR; Will Wilkinson, “Patents Against Prosperity”, The Economist; “Good Defensive Patents Are Bad Patents,” Julian Sanchez.