OLYMPIA — The Washington House of Representatives yesterday passed Attorney General Bob Ferguson’s Patent Troll Prevention Act, a bill to protect Washington small businesses from predatory and bad faith patent infringement claims and demands, in an overwhelming 94-3 vote.
Ferguson requested the legislation, Senate Bill 5059, sponsored by Sen. David Frockt, D – Seattle, and House Bill 1090, sponsored by Rep. Laurie Jinkins, D – Tacoma, to crack down on patent trolls who harass and threaten small businesses in Washington. The bill passed with strong bipartisan support from the Legislature, passing the Senate 41 to 6 on Feb. 24, and now can be signed into law by the Governor.
Patent trolls obtain and misuse patents as a way to make money by asserting patent rights and collecting infringement fees from other businesses. Their aggressive and deceptive tactics have become a growing concern for the Attorney General’s Office.
"Patent trolls are in business to take money from legitimate enterprises. Their tactics hurt the economy and stifle innovation,” said Ferguson. “The Patent Troll Prevention Act will protect small businesses and provide my office with enforcement authority to hold these fraudulent trolls accountable.”
“It is increasingly important that we protect Washington entrepreneurs and small businesses from fraudulent attempts to use phony patents as a means of extortion,” said Frockt. “This bill is a big step forward to protect the legal rights of local businesses and maintain the fair and legitimate operation of our intellectual property system that is so critical to the tech-driven economy in this region. I’m grateful to the Attorney General for his hard work moving this legislation through the process.”
“Small businesses are the cornerstone of strong communities and a healthy economy,” said Jinkins. “But too many of our hard-working business owners are being needlessly threatened, forced to spend precious resources fighting bogus claims of patent infringement. With this bill, we will do more to stop these dishonest practices and stand up for small businesses across Washington.”
The Patent Troll Prevention Act will prohibit demand letters that:
- Contain false or deceptive information;
- Are sent by parties who do not have the right to license or enforce a patent;
- Baselessly threaten litigation if a fee is not paid; and
- Fail to identify the individual asserting the patent and explain the alleged infringement.
The legislation also provides the Attorney General with enforcement authority under the Consumer Protection Act to hold fraudulent patent trolls accountable.
The Office of the Attorney General is the chief legal office for the state of Washington with attorneys and staff in 27 divisions across the state providing legal services to roughly 200 state agencies, boards and commissions. Attorney General Bob Ferguson is working hard to protect consumers and seniors against fraud, keep our communities safe, protect our environment and stand up for our veterans. Visit www.atg.wa.gov to learn more.
Peter Lavallee, Communications Director, (360) 586-0725; PeterL@atg.wa.gov