The STOP Act in the House Looks to Deal With Bad Software Patents

stop trolls signCongress continues to focus on the patent troll problem. Reps. Darrell Issa (R-CA) and Judy Chu (D-CA) have just introduced the Stopping the Offensive Use of Patents Act (STOP Act) to expand the Covered Business Method review program at the PTO. This bipartisan bill is very similar to the Patent Quality Improvement Act that Senator Schumer (D-NY) introduced in the Senate.

I’ve written about the Covered Business Method review program several times. This review program lets anyone who has been threatened with or sued for infringing a financial services patent ask the PTO to take another look. The Patent Trial and Appeals Board issued the first decision on a Covered Business Method patent a few weeks ago and invalidated a troll’s patent in just 9 months.

The STOP Act would expand the program to cover all business method patents. These are not patents that invent some new technology — they’re patents that use existing technology to do something. Business method patents are the weapon of choice of patent trolls, and there are a lot of bad ones out there.

I have no doubt that we’ll hear the concern trolls worry about the supposed devastating effect this expansion would have on various industries. They usually tell us the consequences will be something like the effect of “crossing the streams” in Ghostbusters:

Bunk!

If your patents are valid you have nothing to worry about. If you don’t threaten people with your patents you have nothing to worry about. And if your valid patent gets challenged with Covered Business Method review and survives, you’ve just saved yourself a lot of money, because you won’t have to deal with the same arguments in court.

Anyone opposing this bill or Senator Schumer’s bill is essentially supporting bad patents. Opposing these bills is equivalent to saying that the PTO shouldn’t be given the chance to correct its mistakes; that if you can sneak one past a patent examiner, good for you; and if you’re the target of one of these bad patents, it’s just tough luck, because you’re going to have to hope you can persuade a non-expert judge or jury (assuming you can afford to fight all the way to trial).

The opposition is simply wrong here. Expanding Covered Business Method review is absolutely crucial to dealing with the bad software patents out there. If we’re going to trust the PTO to issue patents in the first place, we should trust the PTO to weed out the bad software patents that have gotten through the system.

Bottom Line

The PTO should be allowed to fix its mistakes and help get rid of the bad software patents that trolls use. End of story.

Here’s major thanks to Reps. Issa and Chu for co-sponsoring this bill in the House, and a renewed thanks to Sen. Schumer for putting this out there in the first place.

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Matt Levy

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Matt Levy is Patent Counsel at the Computer and Communications Industry Association, where he handles legal, policy advocacy, and regulatory matters related to patents and is lead blogger for CCIA’s Patent Progress. He is recognized as an expert on patent litigation reform and is cited and quoted widely on the issue.

Matt joined the CCIA in 2013 from private practice, where he got first-hand experience in both patent prosecution and patent litigation, including defending clients against patent assertion entities.

  • James Schultz

    Who is opposed to the STOP and Patent Quality Improvement Acts?