Intellectual Property

Congress Targets Patent Trolls

It's become legalized extortion


A couple of congressmen today reintroduced a bill that will likely command a standing ovation throughout Silicon Valley. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) and Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) are taking aim at so-called patent trolls with a proposal that would force them to pick up the tab for a defendant's legal costs if their patent lawsuit fails to prevail.

This is the second time around for the Saving High-tech Innovators from Egregious Legal Disputes, or SHIELD Act. The co-sponsors first submitted the bill last August, but the provision withered on the political vine for a couple of reasons. The bill faced strong opposition from trial lawyers. It also wasn't the sort of big political vote getter that politicians love to rally around. This time around, though, the co-sponsors believe that they have a better chance of passing their proposal into law. The retooled SHIELD act offers a less objectionable way of determining who will be liable, according to DeFazio. Also, it would extend to all industries, not just high tech.