House Punts on Patent Trolls, Asks FTC to Deal With the Problem
June 7, 2013 6:54 PM
comment(s) - last by
Meanwhile states take the fight to settle-or-sue trolls themselves
among veteran legal experts
that the patent and copyright systems
Much of the human genome is "patented"
by biotech firms
preventing cancer research
and other medical progress. Big electronics companies like Apple, Inc. (
patenting things like "rectangular body with curved edges"
and suing their rivals. Meanwhile, all these big players are
also under attack
from the bottom
by "patent trolls"
companies that produce nothing, buy up collections of intellectual property, and sue those who do produce via shell companies.
I. Congress to FTC: Help Us Fight the Trolls
When it comes to the latter problem -- the so-called patent trolls -- some members of Congress are feeling pressure from their corporate sponsors who paid their way into office. Under fire to take some sort of action, Congress appears uneager to pass new laws to explicitly attack the patent assertion entities (PAEs) (a euphemism for "patent troll").
Reps. Judy Chu
(R-Tex.) have urged the
U.S. Federal Trade Commission
to use its ambiguously defined powers to examine whether PAEs are behaving abusively and crack down on them with fines or lawsuits, if necessary.
Rep. Judy Chu (D-Calif.) [Image Source: Getty Images]
Rep. Chu dropped the euphemism and called a troll a troll,
, "We can't let patent trolls hide under the bridge any longer—we must expose them of their deceptive practices. Patent trolls abuse the marketplace for financial gain and target end users who have every right to enjoy the products and services they purchased. The FTC has a role to play in ensuring every American consumer is protected from those who use wrongful business practices to make a quick buck."
Yet with five IP reform bills introduced or drafted, Congress still has yet to take any real action against the trolls. The
last piece of major legislation
that affected the
U.S. Patent and Trademark Office
(USPTO) was the "
America Invents Act of 2011
". Since then efforts -- particularly those focused on the trolls -- have stalled as Congress was afraid that passing changes could hurt a fragile economy.
II. Vermont Takes a Stand Against Top Troll
While some companies like Apple engage in so-called "mild trolling" -- patenting ambiguous claims and then using them anti-competitively -- "true" trolls (PAEs) are known for filing lawsuits against dozens, or even hundreds of companies relying on the fact that it costs more to fight the charges in court and get them dismissed than it does to settle.
One proposed solution has been to pass legislation to make it easier for the defendants to collect legal fees in cases where the lawsuits are determined by a court to have been inappropriate.
However, until those efforts stick, some states are taking matters into their own hands.
In Vermont a company called MPHJ Technology Investments (via its "Project Paperless" campaign) sent letters to "thousands" of nonprofits and businesses threatening to sue them over violations of its patent (
U.S. Patent No. 7,986,426
) on scanning documents into email. The "troll", who has never actually gone to court yet, is demanding up to $1,200 USD per employee (but settling for smaller sums). The scanning threat/extortion scheme is one of several settle-or-sue campaigns by the over 40 shell companies owned by MPHJ.
"Troll" company MPHJ claims to "own" an exclusive patent on scanning and sending email.
[Image Source: eHow]
that the patents appear to be predated by dozens of near-identical patents.
In response to this threat, the Vermont legislature hurried through a "consumer protection" bill (
Vermont Consumer Protection Act
9 V.S.A. §§ 2451
) granting the state the ability to countersue trolls for abusive behavior. The bill was passed last month. That same day Vermont's Attorney General William Sorrell
against MPHJ noting that, "[The company] performed little, if any due diligence to confirm that the targeted businesses were actually infringing its patents prior to sending these letters."
Rep. Blake Farenthold
This article is over a month old, voting and posting comments is disabled
RE: Trolls are not the problem - junk patents are
6/9/2013 7:35:36 AM
Patents granted goes much further than what I stated. It is possible to patent the specific design of a plug, a specific file format, a gesture to unlock a phone, etc. Non of these inventions are revolutionary and none of them required any significant investment.
And it would appear that the law allows for this, as some of these patents have been upheld by the courts. The problem is the law, or least least how the courts interpret the laws.
We don't need patents that are more specific, we need to get rid of junk patents. If the patents that are left after laws have been changed are broad then so be it. In those cases I believe the owners have created something of value and they should be rewarded for it.
"We basically took a look at this situation and said, this is bullshit." -- Newegg Chief Legal Officer Lee Cheng's take on patent troll Soverain
Newegg Legal Chief: "We don't Feed the Trolls"; Defeats Bell Lab Shell Comp.
May 17, 2013, 10:11 AM
Supreme Court to Rule on Whether Breast Cancer Genes, Plants are Patentable
February 19, 2013, 3:07 PM
USPTO Director to Step Down, Praises Smartphone Lawsuit War as "Innovation"
November 27, 2012, 2:14 PM
Judge Posner, Senior Federal Justice, Repeats Plea for Patent Reform
October 2, 2012, 7:30 PM
Tech Executives Agree U.S. Copyright Law is Making a Horrible Mess
September 17, 2012, 3:07 PM
UK Teachers Want Parents to Cut-Off Their Children's Internet, Tablet Use at Night
April 17, 2014, 3:40 PM
Quick Note: Chrome Remote Desktop App for Android Launches
April 17, 2014, 9:26 AM
Report: Apple Plans to Integrate Shazam Song Finding Functionality into Siri
April 17, 2014, 9:15 AM
Bring Your Own Battery: LG Isai FL Likely is G3, First U.S. Quad-HD Android
April 16, 2014, 7:38 PM
Project Moonshine: Google's Plan to Flatten Android App Icons Leaks
April 16, 2014, 1:46 PM
Apple, Microsoft, and Major U.S. Wireless Carriers Embrace Smartphone "Kill Switch"
April 16, 2014, 10:08 AM
Most Popular Articles
Cities to Carpoolers: Sharing Your Car is Illegal, We Will Seize Your Cars
April 4, 2014, 9:17 PM
A-10 Warthog May Live to Fight Another Day with Support from Lawmakers
April 14, 2014, 9:41 AM
EFF: NSA May Have Used IRC Botnets to Exploit Heartbleed for Last Two Years
April 14, 2014, 4:43 PM
Quick Note: Toyota Attempts to Erase “Boring” Image with ’15 Camry SE Hybrid
April 16, 2014, 11:36 AM
A Bug's Life: Female Cave Bugs Have Penises, Penetrate Males for Three Days
April 17, 2014, 7:20 PM
Latest Blog Posts
Facebook Aims to Provide Internet to "Every Person in the World" with Drones, Satellites
Apr 1, 2014, 10:20 AM
Retail Mobile Sites Experience Outages in Light of Simplexity's Bankruptcy
Mar 14, 2014, 8:48 AM
Tesla vs. BMW: Who Has the Safer EV?
Feb 1, 2014, 2:56 PM
Justice Leaks Details of Next HTC One Two Flagship Phone
Dec 5, 2013, 4:04 PM
Global Cyber Espionage Concerns Reveal Growing Cyber Armies
Nov 29, 2013, 11:04 AM
More Blog Posts
Copyright 2014 DailyTech LLC. -
Terms, Conditions & Privacy Information