This Fall is Our Last, Best Chance for Patent Reform

Congress returns to work next week. We need you to call your representatives in Congress. Ask them to pass meaningful patent reform, but tell them that we also need to keep the ability to challenge bad patents in the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

Patent reform is needed to reign in patent trolls — companies that buy up vague patents with the intent of suing other companies for infringement. There is perhaps no bigger threat to American innovation and entrepreneurship than these entities, which suck an estimated $1.5 billion from the U.S. economy — every week.

But without more support, we are in danger of losing another round of the fight. Our lobbyists tell us that if we don’t pass good patent reform legislation this fall, it will be very hard to pass in the midst of an election year. That means any meaningful reform would likely be delayed until 2017 or even 2018 – giving patent trolls another two or three more years.

At Rackspace, we have been working to support patent reform for years. There has been great progress in building broad support for dealing with patent trolls – just look at the list of companies supporting reform.

But challenges remain: the issues are complex and our opponents have been clever. They have introduced changes to the House and Senate bills designed to weaken our ability to challenge bad patents in the patent office through a procedure called inter partes reviews (IPRs). These changes are technical and hard for non-lawyers to interpret – but their effect will be profound.

Let’s be more concrete – remember when Rackspace was sued for having a smartphone app that rotated? I talk about it a little here:

Patent Reform Video

Rackspace used the IPR procedure to invalidate the patent, thus solving the problem for everyone. As we found out later, invalidating the patent saved about 400 lawsuits against companies all across the United States.

As for us, we will continue to fight – every time, every troll, every patent. And we will continue to win. But if we want to solve the problem, it can’t just be Rackspace, or NewEgg, or Vizio fighting. We all have to do it together.

Patent trolls are everyone’s problem. They are parasites, trying to suck money out of successful companies by abusing the legal system. We will continue to support meaningful reform, but we can’t do this alone. Click on the link to help.

(Cross-posted at the Rackspace blog)