Thursday, September 19, 2013

A Bridge Over Troubled Trolls

United States Senators Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont) and Mike Lee (R-Utah) penned a September 15, 2013, indictment of patent system misuse in POLITICO.  Their targets are familiar:  "patent abusers," aka patent trolls.  In an opinion article, Leahy and Lee pull few punches:
The result of this misuse of the patent system is a drag on our economy. It also tarnishes the image of legitimate patent holders. This is not the patent system provided for in our Constitution.
In their article, the senators announce their efforts to reform the U.S. patent system to curb its abuse. Specifically, they state predict that
Our legislation will increase the transparency of patent ownership, protect the customer of a patented product when the manufacturer should really be the defendant and improve the process for reviewing patents at the United States Patent and Trademark Office.
Empirical evidence regarding the actual roles played by patent trolls in impeding or encouraging innovation remains scarce.  Gathering such important evidence should be a priority.  However, on this issue, legislative action seems sure to race ahead of reliable evidence.  Beware, patent trolls, and anyone else mistaken for them:  patent posses are being mustered, and patent gallows built.