August 30, 2013
US Businesses Ask Congress To Stamp Out Patent Trolls
Michael Harper for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online
Patent lawsuits issued by so-called “patent trolls,” organizations that sue businesses for using broad patents they own, have been blamed for stifling innovation and crushing small businesses.
These trolls don’t often have legitimate claims of patent infringement, but they have the money necessary to keep the case in court and run up a huge legal bill. In many cases, small business owners and independent app developers are forced to either settle out of court for large sums of money or pay even more cash to fight the trolls in court.
Now a group of several American associations has joined together to ask Congress to stand up and put an end to patent trolling. Organizations within this group will run print and radio ads in 15 states asking consumers to make a call to their representatives.
The Internet Association, National Restaurant Association, National Retail Federation and the Food Marketing Institute have paid to run these advertisements in states such as Illinois, Iowa, Nevada, Ohio, Texas, Vermont, and Virginia.
“Patent trolls use bad patents to bully companies of all sizes, in every economic sector, from coast-to-coast,” explained The Internet Association’s president and CEO Michael Beckerman in a statement. “This is essentially legalized extortion, forcing hard working businesses to go to court or write a check—money they can’t spend on hiring and growth.”
The organization claims some $80 billion are removed from the economy every year as a result of patent troll lawsuits. In the beginning these lawsuits were being lobbed at app developers and technology companies, but after finding success in these industries the trolls have moved on to sue other small businesses like bakeries, restaurants and “mom and pop” retailers.
Patent trolls have sued these businesses for posting QR codes in their shops or using online store locators to bring customers to their businesses, according to a BBC News report.
These banded businesses are likely attempting to increase the pressure on these patent trolls as Washington has begun to turn its attention to this issue.
The Federal Trade Commission in June received letters from congress asking them to examine the practices of patent trolls, otherwise known as “patent assertion entities.”
Congress also looks ready to introduce new bills to put a stop to these lawsuits, while the White House has also put forth some proposals to protect small businesses from over broad patent lawsuits. Moreover, the Obama administration is proposing actions to make developing new patents for new technologies more lucrative than simply buying a patent and suing anyone who uses a semblance of it, reports Akerman news agency.
In 2011, some Apple developers, including Angry Birds creator Rovio, were targeted by Lodsys, seen by many as a patent troll. Like most other of its kind, Lodsys claimed it owned several patents although it hasn’t developed a patented piece of technology itself.
According to Ars Technica, notoriously quiet Apple Inc. got involved in other Lodsys lawsuits against its developers, saying the patent trolls are using “false allegations” of patent infringement.