Huffman Votes to Pass Innovation Act and Crack Down on Patent Trolls

December 06, 2013

WASHINGTON­—Last night Congressman Jared Huffman (D-San Rafael) voted for H.R. 3309, the Innovation Act, a bill that takes steps to combat the problem of abusive patent litigation, known as “patent trolling.” The bill passed by the overwhelming bipartisan vote of 325-91.

So-called patent trolls abuse the current patent system by filing numerous patent infringement lawsuits against businesses with the hopes of securing a settlement. Patent trolls have cost the U.S. economy an estimated $29 billion a year and have moved beyond the tech sector to target small businesses including restaurants, supermarkets, realtors, and many “mom & pop” businesses. Many companies, especially small businesses, settle these claims out of court instead of facing a long and costly legal battle.

“Patent trolls threaten our economy and innovation with frivolous and abusive litigation designed to extort money out of businesses,” Rep. Huffman said. “The Innovation Act is an important step to increase transparency in patent suits while still providing the structure for legitimate claims to be heard. This bill will benefit America’s economy and create jobs. Yet, our work is not done: we should strengthen the discretion given to judges in the fee-shifting provisions of the bill. I voted for the Watt Amendment to protect every inventor’s day in court while still discouraging frivolous patent troll lawsuits. I hope a provision like this is included in the final bill signed into law.”

According to the House Judiciary Committee, the Innovation Act:

•         Requires plaintiffs to disclose who the owner of a patent is before litigation, so that it is clear who the real parties behind the litigation are. This will ensure that Patent Trolls cannot hide behind a web of shell companies to avoid accountability for bringing frivolous litigation.

•         Requires plaintiffs to actually explain why they are suing a company in their court pleadings.

•         Requires courts to make decisions about whether a patent is valid or invalid early in the litigation process so that Patent Trolls cannot drag patent cases on for years based on invalid claims. This prevents invalid patents from being used to extort money from retailers and end users.

•         When parties bring lawsuits or claims that have no reasonable basis in law and fact, the Innovation Act requires judges to award attorneys' fees to the victims of the frivolous lawsuit. The bill allows judges to waive the award of attorneys' fees in special circumstances. This provision applies to both plaintiffs and defendants who file frivolous claims.

•         Requires the Judicial Conference to make rules to reduce the costs of discovery in patent litigation, so that Patent Trolls cannot use the high costs of discovery to extort money from small businesses and entrepreneurs.

•         Creates a voluntary process for small businesses to postpone expensive patent lawsuits while their larger sellers complete similar patent lawsuits against the same plaintiffs, to protect customers who simply bought the product off-the-shelf.