AUGUSTA, Maine (Legal Newsline) -- A bill that would make patent trolling more difficult in Maine was given initial approval by the state Senate Monday.
Senators voted unanimously for the bill, Legislative Document 1660.
Under LD 1660, any company or person can file a lawsuit in superior court against someone who has made a bad faith assertion of patent infringement against them.
"Bad faith" is defined as lack of specificity of the alleged infringement, settlement demands or damage claims that include excessive licensing fees, and unreasonably short deadlines for payment of demanded monies.
Under the legislation, a court may award equitable relief, damages, costs and fees, including "reasonable" attorneys fees, and punitive damages equal to $50,000 or three times the total damages, costs and fees -- whichever is greater.
Also under the proposed bill, the attorney general may bring an action for a bad faith assertion in violation of the state's Unfair Trade Practices Act.
"It is hard enough to do business without having to deal with scammers who prey on honest businesses that are providing good jobs here in Maine," said Sen. Anne Haskell, a Democrat and sponsor of the legislation.
"This bill discourages fraud while still protecting honest patent holders."
Haskell's bill is modeled after neighboring Vermont's legislation, which was signed into law last year.
Amy Cookson, deputy communications director for Senate Democrats, said Monday that LD 1660 will face further votes in the House before returning to the Senate for a final vote.
She noted that the version of the legislation voted on Monday was the majority report with an amendment exempting pharmaceutical companies.
Earlier this month, nine members of a joint standing judiciary committee -- made up of three senators and 10 representatives -- voted for the version. The other four members voted for a version not including the amendment.
The Senate chair of the judiciary committee had the option of moving either version of the bill.
Haskell had reservations about the modification.
"I'd prefer not to have that amendment on there," she said, while the committee was still considering the change.
However, Haskell said she would agree to a "limited version" of the amendment if it would help the bill pass.
From Legal Newsline: Reach Jessica Karmasek by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.