Will the Innovation Act Vanquish the Trolls?
This Wednesday, Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) introduced the Innovation Act of 2013, a bill aimed at disempowering patent trolls. Notable provisions include a heightened pleading requirement for filing patent infringement claims, an assumption that attorneys’ fees will be awarded to prevailing parties, the delay of discovery until after a ruling on claim construction has been made, and transparency of ownership – that is, mandatory disclosure of the assignees of a patent, plus any entities with rights to enforce the patent or with financial interest in the patent, as well as the “ultimate parent entity” that is bringing the patent claim.
One critic calls the Innovation Act “a blunt instrument” whereas others decry the lack of defenses against patent trolls that avoid filing actual lawsuits, but instead send out hundreds of demand letters to small or medium-sized businesses. Supporters believe the Act would prove most effective against giants like Intellectual Ventures, which hides behind over 2,000 shell companies.
Over half of patent troll lawsuits involve defendants with under $10 million in annual revenue; many such defendants are startups. Patent trolls have likewise targeted podcasters, small city governments, plus hotels and coffee shops.
Pressure Mounts on the NSA and its Enablers
Stop Watching Us – a coalition of over 100 groups that oppose NSA surveillance – is holding a rally in Washington, D.C. today. Its petition articulates requests for a congressional investigation and a reform of federal surveillance law (specifically Section 215 of the Patriot Act, section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, and the state secrets privilege). Stop Watching Us further asks “that the public officials who are responsible for hiding [NSA surveillance] be held accountable for their actions”. The petition has garnered approximately 580,000 signatures thus far.
Another coalition wrote an open letter to antivirus software manufacturers, urging them to protect consumers against NSA malware. Moreover, due to recent revelations that the NSA monitored phone calls of 35 world leaders, Germany and Brazil spearheaded a General Resolution to promote the right of privacy on the Internet.
ACLU and EFF File Briefs in Support of Lavabit
Ladar Levison – the founder of secure e-mail service Lavabit, used by whistleblower Edward Snowden – chose to shut down his service rather than provide the encryption keys that would grant access to 400,000 users’ protected communications. The American Civil Liberties Union argues that the government inflicted “unreasonably burdensome” demands that “fundamentally destroyed the company as a whole” and that far surpass the demands placed upon other secure e-mail providers, like Hushmail. The Electronic Frontier Foundation emphasizes that surrendering the encryption keys would amount to a violation of Fourth Amendment protections against overly broad warrants. Lavabit has raised approximately $100,000 in order to fight its contempt charges.