§ 75-141. Purpose.
(a) The General Assembly finds the following:
(1) North Carolina is home to a growing high-technology, knowledge-based economy. With its top-tier research universities and active technology sector, North Carolina is poised to continue its growth. To continue growing, North Carolina must attract new, small, and mid-sized technology companies. Doing so will help provide jobs for North Carolina's residents and boost North Carolina's economy. North Carolina also is home to companies in retail, manufacturing, and other industries, many of whom are customers of technology companies. Those other businesses are more likely to succeed if not inhibited by abusive and bad-faith demands and litigation.
(2) Patents encourage research, development, and innovation. Patent holders have legitimate rights to enforce their patents.
(3) The General Assembly does not wish to interfere with good-faith patent litigation or the good-faith enforcement of patents. The General Assembly also recognizes that North Carolina is preempted from passing any law that conflicts with federal patent law.
(4) Patent litigation can be technical, complex, and expensive. The expense of patent litigation, which may cost millions of dollars, can be a significant burden on companies. North Carolina wishes to help its businesses avoid these costs by encouraging the most efficient resolution of patent infringement claims without conflicting with federal law.
(5) In order for North Carolina companies to be able to respond promptly and efficiently to patent infringement assertions against them, it is necessary that they receive specific information regarding how their product, service, or technology may have infringed the patent at issue. Receiving this information at an early stage will facilitate the resolution of claims and lessen the burden of potential litigation on North Carolina companies.
(6) Abusive patent litigation, and especially the assertion of bad-faith infringement claims, can harm North Carolina companies. A business that receives a letter asserting such claims faces the threat of expensive and protracted litigation and may feel that it has no choice but to settle and to pay a licensing fee even if the claim is meritless. This is especially so for small- and medium-sized companies and nonprofits that lack the resources to investigate and defend themselves against infringement claims.
(7) Not only do bad-faith patent infringement claims impose a significant burden on individual North Carolina businesses, they also undermine North Carolina's efforts to attract and nurture technology and other companies. Funds used to avoid the threat of bad-faith litigation are no longer available to invest, produce new products, expand, or hire new workers, thereby harming North Carolina's economy.
(8) North Carolina has a strong interest in patent matters involving its citizens and its businesses, including protecting its citizens and businesses against abusive patent assertions and ensuring North Carolina companies are not subjected to abusive patent assertion by entities acting in bad faith.
(9) In lawsuits involving abusive patent assertions, an accused infringer prevailing on the merits may be awarded costs and, less frequently, fees. These awards do not serve as a deterrent to abusive patent assertion entities who have limited liability, as these companies may hold no cash or other assets. North Carolina has a strong interest in making sure that prevailing North Carolina companies sued by abusive patent assertions entities can recover what is awarded to them.
(b) The General Assembly seeks, by this narrowly tailored act, to strike a balance between (i) the interests of efficient and prompt resolution of patent infringement claims, protection of North Carolina businesses from abusive and bad-faith assertions of patent infringement, and building of North Carolina's economy and (ii) the intentions to respect federal law and be careful to not interfere with legitimate patent enforcement actions. Except as specifically set forth in this act regarding bad-faith patent assertions, nothing in this act is intended to alter current law concerning piercing the corporate veil or otherwise concerning personal liability of principals in business entities. (2014-110, s. 2.1.)