February 28, 2014
When I first read that Oregon passed a bill meant to make “patent trolling” illegal, I wrote it off as well-meaning but ineffective grandstanding. “This is a bigger issue than individual states can tackle,” I thought. “So this is pointless.”
“Patent trolls” are defined differently by different people, so it follows that what is considered “patent trolling” will differ from situation to situation, too.
As The Register-Guard reports, the bill includes a list of criteria to determine if patent-trolling is occurring, including:
- Failing to include a patent number for the patent that is allegedly being infringed upon.
- Failure to compare the claims of the patent allegedly being infringed upon to the allegedly infringing party’s product.
- Demanding that the allegedly infringing party pay a license fee in an unreasonable amount of time.
If a demand for a license fee meets those conditions, I certainly think it could be seen as a type of mild extortion, which is the activity that that accounts for most of the hate that people throw toward patent trolls. Intellectual property law provides a means for patent owners to enforce their rights, but doing so in the way this law is meant to curb seems like it’s taking advantage of that avenue.
The lingering question I have is one I still haven’t found a definitive, satisfying answer to: How much patent enforcement would really run afoul of this law?
Ultimately, Oregon’s probably law won’t put a stop to patent trolling (however you define it) even in the state itself, let alone the 48 others that don’t have this kind of law. (Vermont passed a similar bill in 2013). Even so, it’s interesting to see how individual states are taking action.