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US Senator introduces 'Patent Abuse Reduction Act'

Rackspace and industry groups like it, trolls maybe not so much

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US Senator John Cornyn, who represents Texas, has introduced the “Patent Abuse Reduction Act of 2013”.

Cornyn says the Bill (PDF, brace for legalese) is intended to have the following effects:

“This bill would require plaintiffs to disclose the substance of their claim and reveal their identities when they file their lawsuit; allow defendants to hale into court interested parties; bring fairness to the discovery process; and shift responsibility for the cost of litigation to the losing party. These reforms will deter patent litigation abusers without prejudicing the rights of responsible intellectual property holders.”

The legislation, if passed, will make it hard for patent trolls to persist with their tactics of using corporate chimeras to launch multiple instances of litigation against the same target. It will also force trolls to pay all parties' costs if they lose a patent case.

Response to the bill has been positive. Rackspace, also based in Texas, has declared the Bill a fine idea and naming it “a very powerful weapon” in the fight against trolls.

The Internet Association also likes the Bill, calling it “a valuable contribution to the ongoing discussion about how best to put an end to abusive patent litigation practices and to promote, rather than burden, real innovation in today’s Internet economy.”

The Electronic Frontiers Foundation and Consumer Electronics Association have also come out in support of the bill.

Will it become law? Cornyn is a member of the Judiciary Committee, but as a Republican is in the minority. That may not be a fatal problem, given President Barack Obama has signalled patent law reform is something he wants to get done. The Democrat chair of the committee, Patrick Leahy, is presumably aware of that desire. Even if he expresses enthusiasm for Cornyn's efforts the bill's no certainty to become law, because at least two other bills with similar aims are floating around Washington, some from Democrats.

That's a clear signal that both sides of politics agree something needs to be done. Just what and when will doubtless be decided in back rooms in coming months. ®

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