FTC Planning To Go After Patent Trolls

from the this-ought-to-get-interesting dept

Well, well, look at this. Just yesterday we wrote about how the Supreme Court said this week that patent holders can't use their patents as a get-out-of-jail-free card when facing antitrust investigations from the FTC. While many had focused on the specific pay-for-delay situation in the case, we wondered if this would unleash the FTC to really go after a whole variety of patent trolls. The FTC has been gearing up to go after patent trolls for quite some time, and now it looks like it's finally happening.

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.”

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.
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:
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.

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.
Stay tuned, because this is going to get interesting.

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  1. icon
    That One Guy (profile), 20 Jun 2013 @ 9:28am


    Have a sad but true/insightful vote for that one.

    Much as I hate to I have to agree, the really big ones will probably face a pittance of a fine, a slap on the wrist, and a 'Now don't let me catch you doing this again!' at most.

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