Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Committee member Senator Mike Lee (R-Utah) joined together Nov. 18 to introduce legislation to protect businesses and innovators who are being improperly targeted by so-called “patent trolls.”
The Patent Transparency and Improvements Act of 2013 would increase transparency in patent ownership, customers who are sued for patent infringement by allowing the case against them to be stayed while the manufacturer litigates the suit, target the widespread sending of frivolous demand letters, and improve resources for small businesses that are targeted in patent infringement suits, among other provisions. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) is an original cosponsor of the bill.
“America’s patent system is the envy of the world, but unfortunately some bad actors are misusing the system to sue unsuspecting consumers or extort monetary settlements by making misleading demands,” Leahy said. “When small businesses in Vermont and across the country are threatened with lawsuits for offering wi-fi to their customers or using document scanners in their offices, we can all agree the system is not being used as intended.”
The American Hotel and Lodging Association (AH&LA), the sole national association representing all segments of the U.S. lodging industry, is a big proponent of the bipartisan bill. In August the association joined 50 other organizations and signed a letter requesting reform against patent abuse.
“The hotel industry is seeing a disturbing rise in the number of frivolous lawsuits filed by predatory entities known as ‘patent trolls,’ often against small ‘mom and pop’-sized businesses without the resources to fight costly legal battles,” said Katherine Lugar, AH&LA president/CEO. “These hotels and other end users are being targeted simply for offering wireless Internet access for guests, safety communications between employees, and online ordering services—and the overall result is an $80 billion hit on our economy each year.”
Lugar continued, “The lodging industry appreciates Chairman Leahy’s willingness to work towards providing protections for the rights of legitimate patent holders and address the growing problem of frivolous lawsuits filed by patent trolls against the small businesses that are the foundation of the U.S. economy.”