So, there’s a new patent reform bill in the US that is supposed to put an end to “patent trolls”.
The chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), has introduced a bill [PDF] that directly attacks the business model of “patent trolls.” The bill has a real chance at passing, with wide backing from leadership in both parties.
Don’t believe all the cheers online – this bill is a disaster. What it essentially does is make it very hard for smaller companies to file patent lawsuits. While this does, indeed, make it harder for small patent trolls to operate, it has the side effect of shifting the balance of power even more in favour of the larger companies. Additional costs and legal legwork are a huge hindrance for small companies, but entirely inconsequential for large companies which employ the same patent trolling tactics as actual patent trolls, such as Apple’s software and design patent abuse or Microsoft’s mafia practices regarding Android.
With this bill, it will become a lot harder for a small, innovative startup with a great idea to protect itself against the big players. I would call that an unintended side effect, were it not that I am a huge cynic and know perfectly fine that this is anything but ‘unintended’.