San Francisco - The U.S. patent system is in crisis, but there are clear steps Congress and the White House can take to mitigate the impact of vague patents, patent trolls, and a weak legal process to protect competition and creativity, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) explains in a new report released today.
The "Defend Innovation" whitepaper is the culmination of two-and-a-half years worth of research, drawing from the stories, expertise, and ideas of more than 16,500 people who agree that the current patent system is broken. Split into two parts, the report covers both the challenges facing innovators under the current patent regime, as well as concrete measures that policymakers must take in the coming year.
"Fixing the current patent mess will require concerted action, but it can be done," EFF Staff Attorney and the Mark Cuban Chair to Eliminate Stupid Patents Daniel Nazer said. "Now more than ever, there is both the need and the will for real and lasting reform."
In the first part of the report, EFF provides in-depth analysis of how overbroad and vague software patents, combined with an insufficient review process by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, have hindered rather than supported innovation. This broken regime has created an environment ripe for abuse by patent trolls, also known as "patent assertion entities," that sue or threaten to sue businesses for patent infringement, even though these entities don't make or sell a product themselves. The explosion in software patents has also led to a patent arms race, in which companies acquire broad patents for defensive purposes.
"The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office is issuing far too many weak and overbroad patents, particularly on software," EFF Staff Attorney Vera Ranieri said. "Instead of promoting innovation, these patents become hidden landmines for companies that bring new products to market."
In the second part of the report, EFF prescribes six legislative reforms that would begin to fix the patent system. These include:
- Ensuring there are inexpensive and efficient tools for challenging the validity of issued patents
- Passing a comprehensive patent reform bill, such as the Innovation Act
- Ending the Federal Circuit's exclusive jurisdiction over patent cases
- Passing legislation to discourage bad actors from sending frivolous demand letters
In addition, EFF is calling on private companies to adopt alternative patent licensing schemes that can help prevent patent abuse.
"All three branches of government, as well as individuals and companies, have a part to play when it comes to patent reform," EFF Activist Adi Kamdar said. "Right now, we need legislation that clamps down on litigation abuse by patent trolls and bad actors, and empowers those on the defensive end of frivolous lawsuits to fight back swiftly and cheaply."
The "Defend Innovation" report is one part in EFF's multifaceted campaign to reform the patent system, which also includes the website TrollingEffects.org, the "Stupid Patent of the Month" blog series, and legal effort to invalidate the so-called "podcasting patent."
For the full report visit: https://www.eff.org/document/defend-innovation-how-fix-our-broken-patent-system
For more information on EFF's Defend Innovation project: https://defendinnovation.org
Electronic Frontier Foundation
Staff Attorney and the Mark Cuban Chair to Eliminate Stupid Patents
Electronic Frontier Foundation