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03.20.16

EFF Wants to Tackle the Patent Litigation Mess But Still Stops Short of Abolishing (or Working to Abolish) Software Patents

Posted in America, EFF, Patents at 2:37 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

The Patent Busting project/initiative/campaign, which abolished one patent at the time nearly a decade ago, a long-forgotten strategy

Patent troll
Image credit: Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF)

Summary: Patent trolls are still the subject of criticism from the Electronic Frontier Foundation, even though some major companies such as Apple and Microsoft (even those that pay the EFF) are a big part of the problem with patents, and software patents in particular

YESTERDAY we published this article which covered jurisdiction reform as a path to mitigation/cessation of patent trolls, who habitually use software patents (still granted by the USPTO where there is no effective quality control) as a weapon in the Eastern District of Texas. The USPTO doesn’t seem to mind over-litigation as it helps drive demand at the patent office*.

The EFF has just published this recommendation (authored by Elliot Harmon) of the VENUE Act, which uses jurisdiction as a factor by which to throttle/impede trolls. Here is what the EFF wrote:

There’s a new bill in Congress that would finally address the egregious forum shopping that dominates patent litigation. The Venue Equity and Non-Uniformity Elimination Act of 2016 (VENUE Act, S. 2733) would bring a modicum of fairness to a broken patent system.

Forum shopping is a phenomenon that can appear when plaintiffs get a lot of latitude over which federal district to file a case in. Some plaintiffs make their choice based not on what federal district has the strongest connection to the dispute, but rather on which court they believe they have the best chance of winning in. A canny plaintiff will exploit differences between courts in her favor—differences in how they enforce certain rules, for example, or in their track records with a type of case. As anyone knows who’s been following the patent reform debate for very long, forum shopping runs rampant in patent cases.

The EFF correctly points out that this would not solve the problem but only slow it down a bit. What the EFF really needs to do is campaign against software patents — something which clearly it hasn’t been sufficiently interested in (we wrote a lot about this before, either praising or criticising the EFF’s approach/strategy). Justin Blows, a patent lawyer who likes software patents, writes that “Google has been awarded US patent 9,280,534 titled “Generating social glossary”. Broadly speaking, the invention is about scanning social media for new expressions and storing them in a glossary.”

This is similar to a Facebook patent which we recently covered here. Why are such software patents being granted in the first place? A clue might be in the footnote below.
_____
* “A PTO official said to me after my talk that trying to think about IPR with an overlay of prosecution will do nothing but harm,” wrote patent maximalists the other day. “He’s right,” they added. It sure seems like the wolf has been put in charge or the sheep of the wolf is guarding the hen now. They want more patents and more prosecution which drives demand for patents (elevating perceived value of patents).

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