US Government Considering Law To Stamp Out Patent Trolls

While occasionally amusing, patent wars between tech companies are always expensive, often needless, and sometimes stymie creativity. Now, the US House of Representatives is considering a bill that could help reduce the number of cases that appear before the courts.

Ars Technica reports that the Saving High-Tech Innovators from Egregious Legal Disputes (SHIELD) Act would attempt to stamp out frivolous patent lawsuits by forcing unsuccessful plaintiffs to cover defendants' legal costs. It relates specifically to patent cases over computer software and hardware -- nothing else. In a news release Representative Peter DeFazio, who introduced the bill, explained:

"Patent trolls don't create new technology and they don't create American jobs. They pad their pockets by buying patents on products they didn't create and then suing the innovators who did the hard work and created the product."

For a detailed report of the strengths and weaknesses of the bill, the Ars Technica report is well worth a read. But it's worth noting that the act will stir up controversy, not least because it would be the first time US Congress has ever defined the term "software patent", which it describes as "any process that could be implemented in a computer regardless of whether a computer is specifically mentioned in the patent".

Even if such issues don't ruffle too many feathers, the bill still faces a long and torturous road before it gets anywhere near being passed. But let's keep our fingers crossed, because the less time companies spend fussing about patent wars, the more time they spend innovating -- and that's what we all really want. [EFF via Ars Technica]

Image: eirikso/Flickr



    Sounded good at first, but no - as with a lot of friendly-acronym US bills these days, the bill has a mighty sting in its tail.

    Software patents are no good for innovation at all, they primarily serve as a barrier-to-entry to the software industry, comprised entirely of a cache of legal fees waiting to be paid. ALL software builds on the innovation of prior software. Software engineers LOVE to innovate: unlike corps, it's in their very spirit. No need to "support" it.

    Even the trivial-sounding "pull-to-refresh" behaviour is covered by a software patent. I'm surprised somebody hasn't yet patented the scrollbar, or the checkbox, or the radio button. Almost all software uses these things.

    This patent trolling serves one end and one end only, to consolidate the software industry into the hands of those who own the patents and are part of a mutual "don't sue" pact with other mass patent-holders. All this legislation does is raise the stakes. Biggest pockets win, and with this, they'll win even harder

      Very true, but at least the government has realised there is an issue and is acting on it. Who knows, pigs might fly and this legislation could turn into something that actually helps rebuild the broken system.

        I concur thay they've realised it's an issue. The thing is, it's an issue which works in their favour (corporates sponsor and indeed become government, therefore governments owe corporates a steady supply of favours). So the government has proposed legislation that is *titled* as if it addresses popular concern, but really it addresses their own needs more.

        Two birds, one stone... provided nobody influential with the popular interest at heart is able to see what's actually happening here.

    Unbelievable. The Americans erect the legal structure to facilitate trolling and then try to fix it by wacking on more laws. 16 year patent law is all you need

    Watch it die and burn as it gets lobbied to non-existence.

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