Suing a company for patent infringement just got a lot tougher in the state of Virginia.
The state (technically a commonwealth) has created a new legal office focused entirely on patent litigation. Specifically, the state's Patent Troll Unit will look to extract penalties and legal fees from companies who make unjust patent infringement claims against businesses operating in the state.
The task force will seek out companies who file infringement claims on dubious or vague patents, seeking a quick payout. The legal team, reporting to the Attorney General, will file for injunctions against companies it deems acting in "bad faith" with infringement claims.
The practice of filing frivolous patent suits, commonly known as 'patent trolling', is a pet peeve of companies in the tech sector, who often gripe that such lawsuits waste time and money.
Many of the claims are made by non-productive patent-holding companies whose sole purpose is to sue for infringement and licensing fees and collect payouts from companies large and small who would rather pay a fee than pursue a prolonged legal challenge.
"Virginia businesses of all sizes can be targets, from a small, local business up to a large, high-tech firm," Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring told the local Augusta Free Press.
"Under the bipartisan legislation we were able to help craft last year, my office has strong new enforcement powers and we’re going to use them to protect Virginia businesses from these bad actors.”
The move could have a wider effect given Virginia's proximity to Washington DC.
As a hub for contractors, Virginia handles a fair amount of federal government work and many of those contractors will now operate under the protection of the new patent troll task force. Herring noted that his office will not only pursue trolls within the state, but will also attack companies who try to sue from outside the state of Virginia.
Those who believe they are being targeted by a patent troll are being advised to contact the Attorney General's office with details including the demands of the patent troll, contact information and patent details. ®