Companies including Samsung, Google, Apple and Microsoft have warned E.U. regulators that proposed new laws will allow widespread abuse of the patent system.
Patents are a way to protect intellectual property, but the system is open to abuse and can be the source of company rivalry, lawsuits, or in some cases 'patent trolls' chase businesses for compensation, alleging intellectual property theft.
'Patent trolls' are generally recognized as companies or individuals that purchase the rights to questionable patents purely to take companies to court -- which proves to be a costly process for firms -- causing some of which eventually to close because of the financial hardship caused by fighting lawsuits.
In an open letter to European officials on Friday, business and tech giants expressed concern that two aspects of the new law will provide the loopholes necessary for 'patent trolls' to descend in their swarms and cause damage to innovation and businesses.
The two issues under scrutiny are bifurcation and injunctions. The companies say that under the proposed changes to patent law -- due to happen when Europe moves to a common patent system overseen by a Unified Patent Court -- a bifurcated system could lead to different courts deciding whether a patent is valid and whether it has been infringed upon separately without enough guidance.
In addition, the companies fear that injunctions could cause trolls with marginal, small patent claims to cause sales bans or force firms to pay excessive royalties.
Florian Mueller at FOSS Patents writes:
"Not only do the signatories collectively represent a huge share of global IT innovation; it's even more remarkable that there is a consensus on these concerns even among companies that typically disagree on patent policy and have litigation pending against each other in the U.S. and Europe.
It would be a mistake of enormous proportions to think that patent trolls are and will remain exclusively a U.S. problem."
This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com