Patent troll fight moves to, but not through the senate

by Steve Blum • , , ,

The U.S. senate started working on its own version of an anti-patent troll bill with great optimism last week but, like a similar effort in the house of representatives, it’s bogging down in the Washington legislative swamp.

The objective is to keep shell companies from buying up patents and engaging the services of the predatory bar to launch bogus lawsuits and collection efforts against thousands of small companies, in the hopes that maybe hundreds of them will just write a check to make them go away.

There’s a good article in The Verge that explains what the senate bill originally set out to do. The bullet points from that article are…

1) Give defendants a chance to defeat a lawsuit before the costly “discovery” process starts.
2) Force trolls to pay for filing lawsuits that are not “objectively reasonable”.
3) Make it easier for manufacturers to defend their customers.
4) Rein in the abuse of demand letters.
5) Require patent lawsuits to be more specific.

Unfortunately, senate friends of the trolls – no doubt keeping in mind the generous wads of money trial lawyers stuff in their pockets – struck back, as a story in The Hill relates

Sen. David Vitter (R-La.), ahead of the hearing, announced he was signing onto a pared back patent proposal sponsored by Judiciary members Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.) and Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.). Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), who is not a member of the committee, is also a sponsor…

Durbin took a familiar role as attack dog, scolding committee leaders for stacking the witness list with “those who love the bill and those who really love the bill.”

“There is another side to the story that has not been given a chance to speak this morning and I hope that during the course of considering this bill we can reflect on it,” he said.

Next step is for the senate’s bill to go through the same kind of meat grinder used on the house version. There’s still hope that it will emerge reasonably intact sometime in the next couple of weeks.