The America Invents Act brought about specific changes to patent law in the United States in 2011. A previous blog post noted that the Act was effective in some ways, but it did not prevent companies from filing vague patents. These are patents that are not intended to be produced, but are filed only to create a cause for litigation when an inventor files for a similar but legitimate patent. This process, known as “patent trolling,” has inhibited innovation.
Creating policies and legislation that curbs the inhibitive behavior without stifling innovation is one problem that lawmakers face. According to the Michigan Telecommunications and Technology Law Review, not all companies that file patents without the intention of developing related products are interested in litigation. For example, many inventions are developed by researchers, and these may have legitimately filed patents on them.
The Atlantic notes that legal precedents have been set that may be reducing the number of these patent lawsuits. In some cases, the U.S. Supreme Court simply determined that the methods in question were too vague and therefore not able to be patented. In others, the judge ruled that the lawsuits were frivolous. Not only that, but in one case, the company that initiated the litigation was ordered to pay the legal fees the defendant acquired as a result.
Although some of the litigation over vague business method patents has been restricted, there are still many issues over software patents, which comprise a high number of these lawsuits. It is expected that current research about patent issues will inform future legislation so that the process is more effective for legitimate product development.