According to a study by Boston University back in 2012, patent trolls and their lawsuits cost almost $30 billion. Both Democrats and Republicans agree it’s a dilemma, but finding a solution to a scourge that affects small businesses as well as large corporations is proving to be difficult, and nearly impossible. Why? Because any bill that has attempted to deal with patents comes with a whole host of other issues, especially those relating to intellectual property rights and piracy. PIPA and SOPA were legislative attempts at providing Hollywood and the recording industry with greater protection against piracy and naturally pitted the entertainment industry against many in the internet industry who had concerns about censorship and a lack of freedom.

Every step of the way of the legislative process that has had such perverse consequences one runs up against the presence of Senator Leahy. The veteran Vermont Democrat who helped craft the America Invents Act back in 2011, a bill that changed the patent process from a so-called “first-to-invent” to a “first-inventor-to-file” process, one which critics say favors large corporations with expensive legal help that is unavailable to smaller businesses. And patent trolls have become increasingly active since Leahy’s bill became effective in September of that year. While proponents of the legislation claimed that it simplified the process, the actual cost to small business was not really considered.

In May 2014, Leahy took the latest legislative bill to try and reform the patent system, the Innovation Act, off the agenda of the Senate Judiciary Committee. It had garnered broad support in the House, but Leahy didn’t like several of it’s provisions, including one that would have required that the loser in a patent case pay for the winner’s legal bills. That would have been an effective hurdle for many patent trolls and would have forced them to reconsider launching their predatory lawsuits – whose only objective is to win a quick cash settlement out of court – in the first place. But, no. Leahy prefers to do things his way and he let the legislation die.

Now, patent trolls have gone international. Could you expect it any other way? America innovates, (even when the innovation in fact crushes independent inventors and small business), and the world follows. And who better than France? France Brevets, is a well-funded international troll that targets American companies for the benefit of French ones. And other international trolls are getting involved as well. Patent trolls are now part of neo-mercantilist policies of European and Asian governments. Like the buccaneers sailing the seas in search of treasure-laden vessels, we now have patent trolls complementing the industrial espionage efforts of foreign governments. Thank you Senator Leahy. Your wisdom has prevailed.

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