This week, the American Conservative Union blasted out an email warning against the Innovation Act, a much-needed patent reform bill proposed by Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA). Their reasoning wasn’t exactly subtle, as the email screamed:
CHINA LOVES IT. INVENTORS FEAR IT. THE FOUNDERS WOULD HAVE HATED IT.
Now, I can’t speak for China, and I won’t try because I don’t want the ChiComs to drone me. But at least with respect to the “inventors” part and especially the bit about the Founders, I’ll admit, I have no idea what the ACU is talking about. In fact, there’s only one reason I can think of that the Founders might have even begun to dislike the Innovation Act, and that is that some of them were lawyers.
And contrary to the ACU’s argument, it is not inventors, but lawyers who fear the Innovation Act, because it would make life very, very difficult for some of their most prolific clients: Patent trolls.
Enemies of the “Innovation Act” want you to believe that it’s about protecting the little guy tinkering in his basement from having his invention stolen by a giant like Google or Apple. Maybe it’s because he never leaves his basement, but if this person exists, patent trial courts have yet to encounter him.
Who they have encountered, however, are people who never invented anything in their lives, but just slapped a patent on something that someone could invent and are often suing people who actually invented it, which is the essence of patent trolling. In this sense, Innovation Act opponent Seton Motley is technically correct when he says that “just about anyone with a thought worth having” opposes the bill, because at best, all trolls have are thoughts — thoughts that they never act on or do anything to make real, but punish other people who do.
And contrary to the scare tactics about inventors being fleeced by Google, these are the people who benefit from the patent system. According to Rapid News Network, nine out of ten tech lawsuits come from non-practicing entities (or NPEs). In layman’s terms, this means organizations that do nothing with their patents but use them as an excuse to file lawsuits and demand settlement fees. These aren’t inventors; they’re the people who bash their way into the inventor’s basement and tell him he’s been served for designing something they doodled on the back of a cocktail napkin and “patented” as if it was an actual invention.
Not only that, but trolls are getting more and more brazen. Patent troll lawsuits are up 60 percent since 2014. Oh, and not that it matters, but their biggest target isn’t Google. It’s Apple. You know, the company founded by that guy Steve Jobs. But come on, it’s not like he invented anything, right? And now, for trying to get the leeches off its back so it can go on inventing, Apple gets accused of being some pro-Chinese, secret superleech by the ACU!
It’d be one thing if the ACU was known for its willingness to be a front for the trial bar. But here’s a riddle for you: Why would an organization that has been bravely sounding alarms about abuses of the legal system for at least the past 12 years suddenly decide to oppose legislation that can only give aid and comfort to rapacious trial lawyers, who abuse the law to drag inventors into biased courts where sometimes they face years of limbo trying to appeal?
No seriously, why? You tell me. Because I can’t figure it out.