June 9, 2005
It's happening more often: people patent their inventions, not to sell their product, just waiting for someone to invent something similar so they can cash in on an infringement lawsuit. Now lawmakers want to crack down on these inventors.
"Patent troll" is a term that the high tech industry calls people who patent products they never plan on making, just so they can sue for infringement if another company tries to distribute something similar.
This is what how critics said about an inventor of MercExhange, who applied for patents that would protect his method of creating online auctions, just five months before eBay launched.
eBay was sued for infringement and the man walked away with $35 Million in damages.
"To do anything that inhibits the promotion of that progress is a negative for the world," said Erving Kayton, of the Patent Resource Center.
"There is no law that says you have to commercialize," argued Bryan Wright, a Charlottesville Patent Attorney.
The case is currently under appeal, but because of this lawsuit, lawmakers are getting involved in the crack down on patent trolls.
A bill was introduced in the House that would make it harder for patent holders to get court orders to stop the sale of products that could potentially infringe on their patents.
The bill would also make it easier for people to challenge the patents, something patent experts say would hurt more than it would help.
"If you disclose an invention, the world can see it and find a better way to do it, that way technology advances," said Wright.
"That bill is trying to emulate all of the very defective aspects of the patent systems of the rest of the world," Kayton attested.
The patent would go to the inventor who files first.
If the bill passes, patent registration in the U.S. would have the same standards as international patents.