Reps. Renew Effort to Troll for 'Patent Trolls'

A bill has been reintroduced in the House to cut down on lawsuits filed by patent assertion entities (PAEs), otherwise known by their detractors as "patent trolls."

The bill, the Trade Protection Not Troll Protection Act, would require PAEs to have a "vested" interest in the patents they try to protect, "including development of the product."

PAEs have been increasingly buying patents then asserting them and suing companies for products already on the market.

The bipartisan bill was introduced by Reps. Tony Cárdenas (D-Calif.) and Blake Farenthold (R-Texas).

The bill would also codify a program under the International Trade Commission, which hears patent disputes, expediting fact findings and hearings. Companies sometimes feel forced to settle the claims rather than endure the time and cost of a lengthy legal proceeding, something the unscrupulous PAEs are counting on.

"The ITC promotes and facilitates trade, while keeping counterfeit foreign products out of the U.S. market," said Gary Shapiro, president of the Consumer Technology Association. "With this legislation, the ITC will continue to be a robust resource for U.S. companies, but it will be a less attractive venue for frivolous patent extortion. We look forward to expanding the bipartisan momentum for patent reform with Reps. Cardenas and Farenthold." Shapiro represents the consumer electronics companies often targeted with the suits.

Various bills have been introduced in the past couple of years as Congress tries to get a handle on the increase in PAE patent suits, balancing the desire to discourage those trying to game the systems and extort money with the legitimate interests of inventors in protecting their intellectual property.

Those legislative efforts include the PATENT Act and the TROL Act, which passed out of their respective committees, but a bill has yet to make it to the President's desk.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.