Virginia Takes Swing at Patent Trolls - Congress Must Do the Same

Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring recently established the Patent Troll Unit, delivering another serious blow to “bad faith” claims of patent troll activity. These predatory practices stifle innovation and small business growth by abusing the U.S. patent system.

Under a 2014 Virginia statute that garnered broad support, the AG’s Office tasked registered patent attorney Greg Richards to head this new division. The unit will investigate and prosecute senders of egregious demand letters as well as educate Virginia businesses and the public about this illegal activity.

The growing patent troll problem is killing great ideas in the cradle. Trolls, entities that wield overly broad, never-should-have-been-issued patents, threaten the innovation and growth of small- and large-companies alike. They use a variety of shakedown tactics to extort payouts, including sending demand letters to threaten legitimate companies with lawsuits unless they are paid royalties or a large settlement to avoid long and costly litigation.


However, attempts by Congress to limit these harmful practices, the Innovation and PATENT Acts in the House of Representatives and Senate, respectively, have unfortunately stalled. While these bills languish, patent troll con artists continue to cash in on this abuse of intellectual property protection, sullying the reputation of good faith patent holders and innovative companies in the process. We continually call on Congress to stop dragging its feet and support innovators, providing the stability and certainty that every business needs to grow.

The unwillingness of Congress to take a serious swipe at combatting patent trolls has forced some states to take matters into their own hands. Most notably, Vermont, and now Virginia, realized that this growing problem must be addressed before innovation is completely stifled within the U.S. State legislatures are beginning to stem the tide of patent troll activity with thoughtful, but very specific measures that address a limited portion of the patent troll problem. These efforts to protect and preserve innovation in the U.S. are certainly commendable, but they are no substitute for the broad, effective reforms that the Innovation and PATENT Acts could enact.

The Alliance supports legislative reforms that undermine the patent troll business model without harming legitimate patent enforcement. Our members and other stakeholders remain steadfast in calling for Congress to act. Join the Alliance in support of policies that short-circuit frivolous litigation, address the imbalance in litigation burdens, and ensure transparency and specificity in demand letters and complaints.

Smith Manee

Legal Fellow