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Obama Administration Patent Proposals Could Benefit RFID Industry

Reforms to U.S. patent practices could reduce frivolous lawsuits, which would help nascent technologies, including radio frequency identification, get off the ground.
By Mark Roberti

It's not clear that Congress will enact the president's proposals. There are those who feel they could harm legitimate technology companies by making it tougher to obtain a patent.

It's also unclear whether the proposals will have the desired consequence if they are enacted. The America Invents Act, passed in 2011, requires patent holders to sue each company individually, rather than file one suit naming hundreds of retailers, restaurants or whatever. The law, which goes into effect in 2013, is intended to make it more difficult to sue large numbers of end users. Since it was passed, there has been a sharp increase in the number of lawsuits—from 3,350 in 2011 to 4,700 in 2012—that are clogging up the courts. An estimated two-thirds of these suits were filed by companies or individuals that hold patents but do not make products.

It's also important to make sure the government doesn't throw the baby out with the bathwater. While reducing the incidence of frivolous lawsuits would be a good thing, any reduction in protection for legitimate patent holders could stifle innovation. No one wants to invest hundreds of thousands of dollars in an innovative product, only to find out that a larger company can copy its invention with impunity.

I hope sanity prevails in Washington, and we end up with a good solution that protects the rights of legitimate patent holders while reducing the number of frivolous lawsuits. But given how Washington typically operates, that might be asking too much.

Mark Roberti is the founder and editor of RFID Journal. If you would like to comment on this article, click on the link below. To read more of Mark's opinions, visit the RFID Journal Blog, the Editor's Note archive or RFID Connect.

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