On March 22, 2018, Representatives Steve Stivers (R-OH) and Bill Foster (D-IL) introduced the STRONGER PATENTS Act, a companion bill to legislation introduced in the Senate last year by Senator Chris Coons (D-DE). Today, NAR joined with the United for Patent Reform Coalition to express concerns with the bill.
The legislation would weaken a process adopted by Congress and the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), known as Inter Partes Review. In the early 2000s, the USPTO issued thousands of broad, vague, and otherwise weak patents on inventions involving digital technologies. Patent trolls used these poorly worded patents to shake down victims ranging from tech startups to local restaurant chains. To stop this abuse, Congress created the IPR process to allow troll targets to quickly and effectively challenge these bad patents without time-consuming and costly court battles.
Additionally, the legislation would overturn decades of Supreme Court precedent about indirect infringement and what it means to “induce infringement.” Currently, you can be held liable for “inducing” patent infringement if you knew about the patent and knew your actions would lead someone to directly infringe the patent. The STRONGER Act would reverse these decisions and open up innocent third parties to liability.
NAR will continue to work with Congress to protect REALTORS® from frivolous lawsuits brought by patent trolls.