Congress actually did something!
No, they didn't pass immigration reform, approve a federal budget, or pass the farm bill. But today, the House did pass a bill to restrict patent trolls like ArrivalStar, the European company that makes its money not by making a product, but by suing transit agencies for violating their patent on bus-tracking services—a patent so broad that it applies to virtually any service for tracking vehicles. So far, every transit agency ArrivalStar has sued has decided to settle instead of going to court, including Metro (for $80,000) and Sound Transit (for $15,000).
The bill requires judges who hear infringement lawsuits to award fees to the winner, and requires companies that are claiming patent infringement to explain exactly what their patent covers and how the patent is used.
In a floor speech today, Rep. Suzan DelBene (D-WA, 1) said that "because of the widespread impact of abusive litigation like this, there is broad support across industry and among public interest groups for measures that reduce the financial incentive for bad actors to bring predatory patent suits—measures such as curbing the excessive cost of litigation and discovery abuse, making patent cases more efficient, and requiring plaintiffs to be precise in their claims of infringement."
The sponsor of the legislation, Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), passed an amendment removing a controversial provision that would have given companies being sued for violating software patents the ability to challenge the validity of those patents—essentially making it harder for patent trolls to file frivolous lawsuits against software companies. DelBene supported the amendment.
The software industry frequently complains about frivolous patent suits, which they say stifle innovation; locally, a controversial Bellevue company called Intellectual Ventures has scooped up tens of thousands of patents, many of them on software, and reportedly makes much of its income from lawsuits.