The US House of Representatives is poised to vote on legislation supported by Google that could make it more expensive for patent owners to defend their intellectual property.
The measure seeks to rein in so-called "patent trolls" that buy patents in order to demand nuisance royalties from as many companies as possible. Such firms filed 19 per cent of all patent lawsuits from 2007 to 2011, according to the Government Accountability Office.
"Patent trolls manipulate our system, forcing businesses and entrepreneurs to spend on settlements and litigation expenses instead of using that capital to create new jobs and research technologies," said Darrell Issa, a California Republican who has 37 patents related to car alarms. He backs the bill.
Thomas Massie, a Kentucky Republican who holds 29 patents for touch technology that runs computers, and John Conyers, of Michigan, the top Democrat on the Judiciary Committee that oversees patent issues, say the bill needs more vetting and should be put off until 2014.
Advocates of the measure are seeking to balance the goal of curbing litigation abuses while ensuring patent owners can protect their inventions from knock-off competition or unauthorised use.