Virginia Hops On The Anti-Troll Train

On Wednesday, it was reported that the Virginia General Assembly passed legislation from the House and Senate designed to crack down on misleading patent troll demand letters.  Virginia’s efforts come on the heels of  a letter from over 40 state and territorial attorneys general to the U.S. Senate’s Commerce and Judiciary Committees urging federal patent litigation reform. Virginia, like other states (e.g., Kentucky and Oregon), has expressed concern over its small businesses being targeted with baseless letters threatening patent infringement.  In an effort to provide some protection from frivolous claims, Virginia established criteria for when a claim has been made in “bad faith” (e.g., failing to specify how the target is infringing, etc.).  More importantly, the legislation grants the Virginia Attorney General’s Office enforcement power to curb unwanted troll behavior. While I have been critical of recent federal patent reform efforts to date for having any meaningful impact, it does appear that granting enforcement power to state attorneys general could have an effect on baseless patent infringement claims.  Not only will it curb mass letters from being sent, it should also cause patent owners concern about asserting thinly-based claims of infringement. Companies might think twice before sending knee-jerk infringement letters to their competitors if they could face being investigated by the state.  

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