Patent Reform Is within Grasp

Posted by Dana Rao, Vice President of Intellectual Property and Litigation

Note: This op-ed first appeared in The Hill on March 8, 2016

The numbers are in. And they aren’t good. Patent trolls filed 3,604 suits in 2015, making it the second busiest year on record for abusive patent litigation. And if anyone had any doubt about the merit of these suits, the busiest filing day last year, by far, came one day before a court rule permitting vague complaints was set to expire. A record 212 patent infringement lawsuits were filed on November 30. That is nearly 18 times as many as a normal day. What kind of patent holder would scramble to file a suit to take advantage of this rule? A patent holder who knew their suit had no merit.

These recent numbers reveal that court decisions and rule changes do not discourage abuse of our patent system. In the current system, trolls continue to bring frivolous suits in sympathetic courtrooms around the country. Only legislation will change these dynamics.

Trolls are not just targeting large innovators like Adobe for a quick payoff. They continue to go after small businesses that use our products. While companies like Adobe can continue to stand firm and not settle frivolous lawsuits based on invalid or clearly non-applicable patents, too many small businesses are forced to settle. America’s innovators cannot stem the tide of this parasitic business model without help. The patent system is overrun with trolls, and it is time to root them out.

Adobe supports a patent system for the 21st century that protects innovators. The best way to achieve that is passing patent reform legislation that contains four essential elements for solving the troll problem: shifting fees if suits are frivolously brought, limiting the defendants’ exposure to unnecessary discovery costs, establishing clear rules for pre-suit investigation before forcing the defendants to engage in a multi-million dollar defense of their property, and venue reform to ensure that forum shopping becomes a thing of the past.

These principles will rebalance the system to make patents a reward for true innovation. Real insight plus hard work can secure valuable intellectual property, investment and long-term business success. But the misuse of the litigation system to extort settlements from defendants who cannot afford the high cost of defense has tainted the good name of patents.

Congress has a clear mandate to act, and act swiftly. The debates are over, the hearings are complete, and the language has been crafted. Let’s put together the final package and take this to a vote. We don’t need any more time, evidence, or data. Patent abuse has to stop. If you are interested in being part of the solution, the coalition United for Patent Reform will welcome your participation and needs your voice. We only have a limited amount of time in this legislative year, so the time for the final push is now. Please join us.