Today, we are one giant step closer to real patent reform in the United States. Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), along with a broad bipartisan coalition, has introduced the Innovation Act of 2013, comprehensive legislation that, if passed, would severely limit trolls' ability to continue their trolly behavior. The bill is cosponsored by Reps. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), Spencer Bachus (R-AL), Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), Howard Coble (R-NC), Peter Defazio (D-OR), Anna Eshoo (D-CA), Blake Farenthold (R-TX), Lamar Smith (R-TX), Tom Marino (R-PA), and George Holding (R-GA).
(For more on what's great about this bill and what we think is missing, see here.)
Join us in supporting the Innovation Act. Take action and contact your member of Congress now.
Some will be surprised to see patent reform in the political spotlight again. Not even two years ago, when the America Invents Act became law, members of Congress heralded it as "the most comprehensive change to our Nation’s patent laws in 60 years."
But at the time, we were still quite concerned. First and foremost, we worried that the law didn't address the growing patent troll issue:
What is much worse, the legislation wholly fails to address many of the biggest problems plaguing the patent system, especially the problem of patent trolls. This is especially troubling now, as trolls are targeting small app developers, driving some of those developers out of the U.S. market entirely. The reform act also does nothing to limit patent damages by aligning them with any actual value of a patented invention. We hope legislators won’t treat the passage of patent reform legislation in 2011 as an excuse to ignore the growing troll problem, which stymies innovation, hurting individual inventors, small businesses, and our economy at large.
Second, we worried that Congress, having passed patent legislation, would not be interested in taking up the issue again. Fortunately, Congress surprised us.
What changed? Well, the tech community learned how to better make its voice heard in D.C. (Remember SOPA?) This American Life focused two full hours (here and here) on patent trolls. And brave members of Congress, like Rep. Peter Defazio, got in front of the issue by introducing bills like the SHIELD Act.
But, really, the trolls have done all the hard work for us. They targeted app developers for using generally available technology. They sued small city governments for using bus tracking software. They went after businesses for using scan-to-email technology and the kind of WiFi routers you would buy off the shelf at Best Buy.
Thank you, trolls. You didn't only get our attention, you got the attention of Rep. Goodlatte, along with other congressional leaders, the FTC, and even the President. We're going to be working hard to make sure that not only is your 15 minutes of fame over, but so too is your entire business model.