We’ve noted before there’s probably no better place to pursue a patent lawsuit than the Eastern District of Texas, particularly if the defendant is a foreign firm: That’s where Nintendo (NTDOY) lost a $21 million case over its game controllers, and where Worlds.com is pursuing its patent action against Korean gaming firm NCSoft.
The relative ease of winning patent cases there has made East Texas infamous in IP circles.
But if a patent reform bill being debated in the Senate gets passed, intellectual property lawyers from New York and Silicon Valley may be booking far fewer flights to Harrison County Airport. A comprehensive patent reform package under debate would cut back on “forum shopping,” Reuters reports.
It doesn’t end there:
Under the proposed amendment, if a company has been found to have infringed a patent, the judge will help determine if the patent was critical to the product, as is typical in pharmaceuticals, or a bit player, as is more typical in high-tech items like computers and mobile phones.
Currently, damages could be tripled if the infringement is found to be willful. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit’s 2007 Seagate decision made that harder to accomplish, and the proposed amendment would change the law to make it conform with that decision.
We hope we see meaningful patent reform get passed, but we’re not banking on it. A lot of the blame for the sheer number of (arguably bogus) patent lawsuits certainly falls on the USPTO for isssuing shoddy patents in the first place. But no one judge (in East Texas or anywhere else) should be allowed to make the situation worse by acting as a loose cannon.