Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) introduced legislation on Wednesday aimed at cracking down on abusive patent litigation.
Numerous technology companies have complained in recent years about being threatened with lawsuits by firms that have no plans to create any products. The so-called "patent trolls" buy-up cheap patents, find companies using similar technologies and then threaten to bring them to court for infringement unless they agree to an expensive settlement.
Many companies agree to settle because the cost of fighting the charges in court would be so high.
Cornyn's bill, the Patent Abuse Reduction Act, would give defendants more information about the firms suing them and would limit the types of documents that firms would have to produce in discovery. The bill would also require parties to pay for their opponent's discovery costs beyond "core" materials.
Producing millions of documents for discovery is one of the main reasons that the cost of fighting a patent case is often so high.
In a statement, Cornyn said that abusive patent litigation "directs resources away from the research, development, wages and growth this country so desperately needs."
"These reforms will deter patent litigation abusers without prejudicing the rights of responsible intellectual property holders," he said.
The legislation is similar to the Shield Act, a bill co-sponsored by Reps. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) and Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), that would require certain plaintiffs to pay for the defendant's attorney fees and other legal costs if their patent lawsuit fails in court.
Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) has introduced the Patent Quality Improvement Act, which would require that the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office sign off on all patent lawsuits before they can move to the courts.
Ken Wasch, president of the Software and Information Industry Association, applauded Cornyn for introducing "strong thoughtful legislation."
"It is a crucial step toward an effective legisl
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