Patent Litigation Integrity Act – Raising The Stakes

Patent trolls had an especially scary Halloween this year as Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT) introduced Senate Bill 1612 – the Patent Litigation Integrity Act. The short and succinct bill has one purpose – “To deter abusive patent litigation by targeting the economic incentives that fuel frivolous lawsuits.”[1] The bill would shift litigation costs by granting the prevailing party “reasonable fees and other expenses, including attorney fees.”[2] On defendant’s motion, it would also require plaintiffs to “post a bond sufficient to ensure payment of the accused infringer’s reasonable fees and other expenses, including attorney fees.”[3]

With the high cost of litigation today,[4] many businesses find it easier and cheaper to settle claims of patent infringement, even if a plaintiff’s claims are weak or unsubstantiated. Senator Hatch aims to prevent this practice by requiring plaintiffs to essentially “put their money where their mouth is.”[5] By raising the stakes to litigate patent claims and instituting a default rule of winner-takes-all, bill supporters are hoping “those facing troll threats [will now have] the tools necessary to fight back while also giving trolls a disincentive to bring harassment suits.”[6] The senator has received general kudos from companies and organizations seeking patent litigation reform.[7]

However, if eventually passed, is fee-shifting the best means to deter patent trolls? While the bill allows courts to consider “special circumstances [that would] make an award unjust,”[8] and also consider the “position and conduct of the nonprevailing party or parties,”[9] could the bill also prevent merited claims? As with all obscure legislative phrases, judges will inevitably jump at the chance to define what constitutes “substantially justified [conduct of the nonprevailing party].”[10] However, should the exemption be too narrowly defined, the bill could broadly deter both “abusive patent litigation”[11] and potentially justified but financially weak plaintiff patent infringement claims.

[1] Patent Litigation Integrity Act of 2013, S. 1612, 113th Cong. (1st Sess. 2013).

[2] Id.

[3] Id.

[4] In 2009 the American Intellectual Property Law Association (AIPLA) reported that the median cost per party in patent cases with stakes exceeding $25 million cost over $6.25 million to take the case to trial. In cases where the stakes were between $1-25 million, the median costs were $3.1 million. AMERICAN INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY LAW ASSOCIATION, REPORT OF THE ECONOMIC SURVEY 2009, at I-129.

[5] Senator Hatch, although in different context. Press Release, Senator Orrin Hatch, Hatch to Senate Democrats: Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is (Dec. 19, 2012) (on file with author), available at

[6] Julie Samuels, Trolls, Watch Out: Senator Hatch Introduces New Patent Legislation, Electronic Frontier Foundation (Oct. 30, 2013),

[7] Id.; Keith Kupferschmid, SIIA Praises Senator Hatch’s New Patent Troll Bill, Software & Information Industry Association (Nov. 1, 2013),; Press Release,, Inc, Commends Senator Hatch for Introducing Patent Litigation Integrity Act (Oct. 31, 2013) (on file with author), available at

[8] S.R. 1612.

[9] Id.

[10] Id.

[11] Id.

Leave a Comment