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]