Patent News

Mar. 27, 2015

Law360: Troll Bill Threatens To Weaken All Patents, GCs Say, by Ryan Davis

This article originally appeared in Law360 on March 27, 2015.

Law360, New York (March 27, 2015, 8:35 PM ET) — In-house counsel for IBM Corp., United Technologies Corp. Aerospace Systems, Juniper Networks Inc. and others said at a conference Friday that they are worried that a bill in Congress aimed at thwarting so-called patent trolls will actually weaken all patents and hurt their business.

The Innovation Act, which is under consideration in the House of Representatives, contains a number of provisions that could make it difficult for legitimate companies to enforce their patents, even though supporters say it only targets abusive litigation, according to a panel of general counsel at the American Bar Association’s Section of Intellectual Property Law conference in Bethesda, Maryland.

Sean O’Brien, chief IP counsel of UTC Aerospace Systems, said that the effect of the bill as it is now written would be to undermine patent rights across the board. He said the measure should be revised during the legislative process so that it has a more balanced approach.

“There are clearly abusive tactics that need to be addressed, but I hope the solution is directed to abusive patent litigation and not patent strength in general,” he said.

An “anti-patent lobby” that wants to weaken patents seems to have the ear of some in Congress, and there is a risk that parts of the Innovation Act such as stays of lawsuits against customers could make life difficult for companies that depend on strong patent rights, said Mark Ringes, vice president and assistant general counsel at IBM.

“There is concern that they will do something that tips the balance against patent strength,” he said.