Somewhere, someone must have taken the famous cartoon of Elmer Fudd, in full hunting regalia, and changed the caption to read, “Shhhhhhhhhhh, I’m hunting Twolls.” (After securing the appropriate IP permissions, of course.) This past fall, we posed the hypothetical question of whether it was open season for patent trolls, euphemistically referred to as non-practicing entities (“NPEs”) or patent assertion entities (“PAEs”), in the wake of the new 35 U.S.C. § 299.
We previously reported on the proposed Saving High-Tech Innovators from Egregious Legal Disputes Act of 2012 (“SHIELD Act of 2012”), introduced in the House of Representatives as HR 6245 last year. This Act, intended to discourage frivolous patent litigations by so-called non-practicing entities (“NPEs,” or sometimes referred to as “patent trolls”), proposed adding new section 35 U.S.C. § 285A to make fee-shifting available under certain circumstances in patent litigations involving computer hardware and software patents. More specifically, it provided that fees could be awarded to a prevailing defendant upon finding that the party alleging infringement did not have a “reasonable likelihood of succeeding.” As written, the SHIELD Act of 2012 failed to garner sufficient support and died in committee.
We previously reported on the new 35 U.S.C. § 299 of the America Invents Act. This statute aims, inter alia, to reduce the ability of a patent owner to join multiple, unrelated defendants in a single action, which is a tactic often employed by non-practicing entities (“NPEs”), sometimes referred to as “patent trolls,” who press defendants for nuisance value settlements.