Idaho companies' defense against frivolous patent infringement lawsuits was bolstered this week when Gov. Butch Otter signed a new piece of legislation.
In the past decade, companies known as patent trolls have stockpiled patents, intending to sue companies for infringement rather than develop products of their own. Patent trolls often send vague threats demanding license fees or they fish for companies seeking to settle to avoid litigation. They might send the same form letter to many companies in the same industry.
Micron Technology Inc. was among the Idaho businesses that asked for a measure to diminish patent trolls' ability to threaten legal action.
Mike Reynoldson, Micron's government affairs manager, told the Statesman that Micron, which holds thousands of patents, has seen an increase in legal threats over the past 15 years.
He said it is important for Micron to protect its patents while fending off frivolous, bad-faith lawsuit threats or attempts to strong-arm payments.
"This law sends a strong message that this type of activity is not going to be tolerated in Idaho," Reynoldson said. "That's good for all business, large and small, and I think it sends a message to Congress that they should consider looking into patent law at the federal level."
The law defines bad-faith patent litigation threats as any of the following:
A letter threatening patent infringement litigation lacks the patent number or name and address of the sender.
The letter demands payment for a license fee or a response in an unreasonably short period of time.
The person offers to license the patent for an amount that is not reasonably based on the value of the license to the patent.
When a reasonable person would recognize that a person's claim of patent infringement had no merit.
Reynoldson said other Idaho organizations who have dealt with patent trolls who supported the law included the Idaho Retailers Association, the Idaho Bankers Association and the Idaho Credit Union League.
The bill passed 33-2 in the Senate and 65-1-4 in the House.
Zach Kyle: 377-6464, @IDS_zachkyle