from the this-ought-to-get-interesting dept
The FTC is launching a "sweeping investigation" of patent trolls that will hopefully expose some of the more nefarious practices of those shakedown houses:
The chairwoman, Edith Ramirez, is planning to ask the full commission to approve an inquiry that will include the issuance of subpoenas to companies that are known as patent-assertion entities, or, unflatteringly, as patent trolls. The move comes after the issuance of several executive orders by President Obama directing executive agencies to take steps to “protect innovators from frivolous litigation.”Also, the NY Times article notes that the FTC isn't just focusing on the tiny shell companies, but the big patent trolls as well:
If approved, which is likely, the F.T.C. investigation will require patent-assertion companies to answer questions about how they conduct their operations, including whether they coordinate their lawsuits with other patent holders and if they funnel proceeds from lawsuits and patent licenses back to the original patent owner.
People briefed on the plans said that the inquiry will focus on companies at both ends of the patent-troll spectrum. At one end are the small companies, essentially legal shells, which gather patents and cite them when sending demand letters to thousands of businesses claiming infringement on a patent for some activity. In 2011, a company targeted coffee shops for setting up Wi-Fi networks for customers.Stay tuned, because this is going to get interesting.
At the other end are large companies like Mosaid, which has its American headquarters in Plano, Tex., and Intellectual Ventures, a Bellevue, Wash., firm that was co-founded by Nathan Myhrvold, a former chief technology officer at Microsoft. Those entities buy portfolios of intellectual property rights from technology innovators like Microsoft and Nokia and use them to generate millions of dollars in licensing payments.