Washington Starts Standing Up to Patent Trolls

The White House is hoping to address the skyrocketing number of patent infringement lawsuits with a new series of executive actions and legislative priorities targeted at so-called ‘patent trolls.’ According to a new report by the President’s Council of Economic Advisors, National Economic Council and Office of Science & Technology Policy, the total number of patent cases has nearly doubled in the past seven years. More alarming is the fact that in that same amount of time, the number of suits filed by patent-trolls—companies that own patents for the sole purpose of litigating to receive license fees—has more than tripled to 62% of all cases.

Last week, the White House announced five executive actions and seven legislative recommendations “designed to protect innovators from frivolous litigation and ensure the highest-quality patents in our system.” Primarily, the measures aim to tighten the scope of patents while increasing overall transparency and education.

Like the immigration debate, there appears to be support on both sides of the aisle in Congress for reform. Several pieces of legislation have been introduced this year while 18 members of Congress (10 Democrats and 8 Republicans) recently signed a letter urging the Federal Trade Commission to get involved in the issue.

The measures and other similar efforts are being widely applauded in the startup world as a necessary first step in protecting new and young firms from financially crippling—and innovation-stifling—defenses. Of course, plenty of work remains if serious patent reform is to occur, but it is a start.

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