Trolling Effects Blog
Though it was paraded around as the biggest change to patent law in half a century, the America Invents Act (AIA) of 2011 failed to address many of the patent system's largest problems. In particular, patent trolls continue their deplorable business model of buying up patents and using the threat of litigation to force companies—frequently startups—to pay up or face ruinous legal fees.
Oh, how the times are changing. The last few weeks have brought significant encouraging news about the prospects for patent reform. Leaders in D.C., including the chairmen of the House and Senate Judiciary Committees, along with the President, have all acknowledged the essential need for immediate reform.
UPDATE APRIL 22:
It's been nearly two years since we first reported about Lodsys, the patent troll who targeted app developers. You might remember that Lodsys had actually filed lawsuits against some app developers in Texas; that case was (and is) slowly moving forward. We hadn't heard anything else from Lodsys in the meantime and assumed (foolishly, perhaps) that it was waiting to see what the judge said. This week, that all changed.
Today Congress heard overwhelming evidence about how patent trolls—companies that assert patents as a business model instead of creating products—are abusing the system to stifle innovation. At a hearing before the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property and the Internet, witness after witness testified about patent trolls who use the threat of ruinous defense costs to pressure companies into paying settlements on vague and overbroad patents.
EFF is pleased to see the Indiegogo campaign page of Internet startup CentUp has returned after the page was briefly taken down in response to a complaint by a patent troll. We hope this takedown is not the start of a trend of patent trolls sabotaging startups by complaining to online intermediaries.
Patent trolls — companies that assert patents as a business model instead of creating products — have been in the news lately. This is hardly surprising, given that troll lawsuits now make up the majority of new patent cases. And the litigation is only the tip of the iceberg: patent trolls send out hundreds of demand letters for each suit filed in court.