The U.S. House of Representatives has taken a significant step forward in the battle against so-called “patent trolls,” individuals or entities that acquire and seek to enforce patent rights without actually manufacturing a product. Instead, they seek licensing fees from companies that ostensibly are violating the patents.

The Innovation Act, which would crack down on patent-litigation abuse, passed the House by a vote of 325-91. It’s now up to the Senate to determine the bill’s fate, and we strongly urge its passage.

The Innovation Act targets “patent assertion entities,” making it more difficult for them to pursue unwarranted litigation.

“One of the prominent and perhaps most controversial provisions of the proposed new law is the fee-shifting clause, which would allow district courts greater discretion to award fees and costs against a party who raises a patent claim that is not ‘substantially justified,’ ” attorneys with the Washington, D.C., law firm of Arent Fox wrote in a recent analysis of the Innovation Act.

The House-passed measure also includes provisions to strengthen pleading requirements, reform the discovery process and create more transparency regarding patent ownership, according to the Lexology website.

The Boulder Valley is home to thousands of innovative companies, including in the technology space. Additionally, the Boulder-Denver area boasts dozens of high-quality law firms that specialize in intellectual property. Denver itself is slated to receive a new regional operation of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

Patents are big business here, and play a crucial role in protecting innovation. But abuse of the legal system stymies innovation, increases costs and delays commercialization of new products and services.

The Senate is said to be considering provisions that are weaker than those passed by the House. We urge them to clamp down on the trolls.