But a troll is defined by its actions, not by its corporate identity, the history of its patents, or the technology to which those patents apply.
Republican Congressman Bob Goodlatte apparently gets it. On 23 October 2013 he introduced the proposed Innovation Act 2013, which he describes as a patent litigation reform bill. The bill is technology-neutral and, as the Congressman’s media release explains:
…targets abusive patent litigation behavior and not specific entities with the goal of preventing individuals from taking advantage of gaps in the system to engage in litigation extortion. It does not attempt to eliminate valid patent litigation.
In the past week I have read numerous responses to the Goodlatte bill. A few have been relatively neutral, and simply set out the various provisions of the bill. Others raise a number of the issues which have previously caused me to express some scepticism as to whether the US would be willing to take the action necessary to rein in patent trolls. Over at the IAM Magazine Blog, Joff Wild rightly points out that the bill is not specifically ‘anti-troll’, but will affect the risks and obligations faced by patent plaintiffs generally. Andrew Williams, writing on the PatentDocs blog, describes the proposed legislation as a ‘blunt instrument that will impact all patent infringement actions’. The Innovation Alliance, which largely represents smaller innovators and patent owners, has also been critical of the bill.
None of this surprises me. I have previously expressed my opinion that there is no way to curb trolls without impacting the rights of patent-holders more generally. The goal must be to strike the right balance, not to try (and fail) to be all things to all people.