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Patent trolls may have to come out into the sunlight, finally. Last week, in what's been dubbed "The Big Tent Letter," fifty business organizations, as diverse as banking and publishing, asked Congress to enact legislation to deal with frivolous patent suits.
The letter stated that patent troll "activity cost the U.S. economy $80 billion in 2011, and productive companies made $29 billion in direct payouts." Though patents were created "[t]o promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts," even the Obama administration has weighed in on what many say amounts to nothing short of extortion.
So what is Congress doing about patent trolls?
Congress currently has six different bills before it, all dealing with patent trolls. R Street reports that on Monday, Reps. Darrell Issa (R-CA) and Judy Chu (D-CA) introduced the latest bill to combat patent trolls, called the Stopping the Offensive Use of Patents Act (STOP Act).
In 2011, the America Invents Act set up a temporary program, limited to financial patents, for the USPTO's Patent Trial and Appeal Board to review a patent's legitimacy. This review is more favorable to businesses because a patent review can cost up to $100,000, where patent litigation can run upwards of $2 million, according to Ars Technica. R Street also noted that when cases initiated by patent trolls go to trial, the trolls lose 92% of the time. But, because of the high cost of litigation, many companies opt to settle, even if there is no basis for the claim.
The proposed STOP Act would not only make the review program permanent, but it would increase the scope to include other types of patents, rather than just financial patents. Since trolls often target many companies, the new proposed review process would allow the targeted companies to join "in mounting a collective attack on a bad patent," Ars Technica reported.
The problems caused by patent trolls are many faceted, as the six different bills before Congress show us. However, we do know that Congress is ready to take action, and businesses across the country are hoping that come this fall, they will start taking steps to stop the extortion.
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