Industry Groups Demand Congressional Action on Anti-Patent Abuse Bills
Instead, PatentFreedom says that many of these entities are legitimate owners of patents that the U.S. Patent and Trademark office originally granted to them. But they either chose not to use or found that they weren't able to use it profitably. For example, the organization points out, many companies exist to do research and development and then license the resulting patents. Still, the patent lawsuits continue. PatentFreedom points out in their study that the largest number of companies being sued for patent infringement are exactly who you'd expect, with the top one being Apple. So why is there all of this attention to abusive patent litigation now? There are two primary reasons. In the case of PatentFreedom, it took until August to compile its report. In the case of the group of retailers focusing on Congress, the timing of their action is related to a time-honored congressional tradition—summer vacation. Unlike the rest of us, Congress has a five-week break in August in which members perform fact-finding missions in far flung places such as the beach. The mass radio and newspaper ad attack is timed for when the members of Congress are wrapping up their time back home and returning to Washington where they can resume their normal activities. According to Stephen Schatz of the NRF, their member organizations are demanding action. "The reason is that NRF started hearing from members including brick-and-mortar stores and online retailers," Schatz told eWEEK. "Members are getting demand letters." Then, he said, "We were inundated by retail companies getting similar letters."Some action is already taking place in Congress where patent reform bills were introduced into the House of Representatives in July and into the Senate in May. But, so far, those bills are tied up in committee hearings. While many observers expect the diverse legislation to be wrapped into a single bill in each chamber after Congress returns after Labor Day, so far there's been no indication that this is actually happening. The current campaign to draw attention to the need for this legislation is to try to convince Congress to move forward before the current session ends.
"We know that PAEs have been hitting sector after sector," Schatz said. "They are increasingly targeting retail companies, including large companies and small brick-and-mortar companies. They're suing because of on-line shopping carts, public WiFi, printing of receipts or using QR codes. These claims have grown to preposterous levels," he said. "They are costing members millions of dollars."