Patent trolls are like the obnoxious cousins of domain squatters, their confrontational methods being inversely proportional to the passive coat tail riding of those who take advantage of popular URLs. The scheming of the patent troll is simple: buy up a patent portfolio or two, then start tossing around lawsuits in an effort to make some money. The ITC has grown weary of this, and has made it harder for such trolls to succeed.
Today the International Trade Commission stated that in the near future, certain businesses that initiate a patent infringement lawsuit will be subjected to scrutiny, with a panel looking into whether the company has a “significant presence” in the US. For now the program is in its pilot stage, and will not apply to all companies that go after others for patent infringement.
The companies that do fall under scrutiny will be required to show ahead of time that they are firmly rooted in the United States, rather than the previous end-of-case look by the ITC at whether the company successfully fell under a “domestic industry” standard. As such, the new requirements will save time in cases that have been initiated by patent trolls, not requiring the case to reach the ruling stage before the standard is established.
The determination will have to be made within 100 days of the potential patent troll seeking infringement damages, with six judges looking into the matter and making the final decision. Not surprisingly, the ITC Working Group, which harbors such big names as Intel and Google, have responded favorably to the new requirement, with Reuters reporting that the group has been actively involved in attempting to diminish the instances of patent troll lawsuits.
This is a blow to patent trolls, who frequently take their cases to the ITC, something that results in substantial wastes of time and funds. Though the pilot program will come with its own issues that will need ironed out – administration fixes being listed among them – the ITC Working Group’s Executive Director Matt Tanielian calls the move “a step forward.”