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Let's not make patent trolls stronger

Evan Schuman | Jan. 21, 2015
Bill proposed by National Retail Federation in the US wouldn’t shut them down, and it might simply legitimise them.

The real problem for the NRF is probably that defining patent trolls that way within legislation could be seen as diluting patent protections -- reality notwithstanding -- and that Congress simply wouldn't do it. "I don't know if it would actually be productive," Provenzano said. "It's my understanding that there isn't a desire from the members of Congress to define a patent troll. We are pursuing what is politically feasible. We are very hopeful that we'll see meaningful legislation this year."

As a rule, lobbyists don't pursue ideal legislation -- laws that directly address whatever the issue is -- but rather craft compromises that move the law a few millimeters closer to where the lobbying group wants it to be. After all, a bill that won't be passed isn't going to help anyone.

One advantage of the NRF proposal is that it does push the trolls into the light, which is not a comfortable place for them. The trolls' preference is to send their threatening letters and to then slither back into the darkness to write more. "We see when you actually challenge patent trolls, they don't have the fortitude to stand," Provenzano said.

My fear is that, though the proposed legislation might discourage some trolls, it will embolden others. And as long as trolls comply with the new rules, they will be in a stronger position to attack new victims, with added legal protections. I fear that, as with cockroaches, whatever doesn't kill them will make them stronger.


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