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Oregon lawmaker lauds passing of patent troll bill, says it will give AG 'more tools'

By Jessica M. Karmasek | Feb 27, 2014

SALEM, Ore. (Legal Newsline) -- The Oregon lawmaker who co-sponsored a bill aimed at cracking down on so-called "patent trolls" says the legislation is the first step in the state's efforts to combat the entities that are hurting businesses.

"This gives our attorney general more tools in their toolbox to help them go after some of these cases," state Sen. Jackie Winters, a Salem Republican, said in an interview Wednesday.

On Monday, the state House of Representatives passed Senate Bill 1540, 59-0. Rep. Wally Hicks, a Republican, was excused from the vote, according to the roll. On Tuesday, Senate President Peter Courtney, a Democrat, signed the bill. On Wednesday, House Speaker Tina Kotek, also a Democrat, signed the bill.

The legislation has been sent to Gov. John Kitzhaber's desk, where it is awaiting his signature.

Winters said it is highly unlikely that the governor, a Democrat, will not sign the bill.

"It's very rare for a governor to veto a bill that has this type of support," she said.

The legislation, which would make patent trolling a violation of Oregon's Unlawful Trade Practices Act, has zipped through the legislature since being introduced earlier this month.

Last week, it passed the Senate on a 30-0 vote.

Winters, who sponsored the legislation along with Rep. Jennifer Williamson, a Portland Democrat, also admitted that it is unusual for any legislation to pass both houses so quickly.

But she credited her fellow lawmakers and the Attorney General's Office for being on the same page.

"I think one of the reasons it was smooth sailing was because I collaborated on the issue with the Attorney General's Office, but also because I had conversations with those stakeholders and those who would be directly affected ahead of time," Winters explained. "So, by the time it made it to the floor, everyone had weighed in on it.

"And it is an issue that our members have heard about nationally, so they know this is a concern that's out there."

Winters said she is even more impressed the bill passed given the legislature's short, 35-day session.

"To have a bill be introduced, make its way through our committee process and then get past each chamber... it is very pleasing," she said.

Winters, who owned Jackie's Ribs, a small Salem-based restaurant, for 18 years, said she hopes the legislation will help small business owners.

"My hope is that, long-term, by giving the Attorney General's Office this added tool that when problems like these come up, (the office) can assist those small businesses," she said. "Because they simply don't have the dollars to get involved in litigation."

Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum applauded Winters' efforts.

"Patent trolling stifles innovation and entrepreneurship," she said Tuesday.

Generally speaking, a patent troll, or non-practicing entity or patent assertion entity, purchases groups of patents without an intent to market or develop a product.

In some cases, but not all, the entity then targets other businesses with lawsuits alleging infringement of the patents it bought.

Under SB 1540, those who have been targeted by a patent troll can sue for attorneys' fees.

If signed by the governor, the measure will go into effect immediately.

Oregon would be the second state with such a law on the books. Last year, Vermont signed into law its own patent trolling legislation.

From Legal Newsline: Reach Jessica Karmasek by email at patents@legalnewsline.com.

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