QUIZ: What do EFF, movie studios, automobiles, and your local grocery store have in common?

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patent reform ideas


If you guessed that they are all big in California—well, you're kinda right.

But the more significant answer is that they are part of a growing broad array of the US economy that have united together to strongly encourage Congress to address abuses of the legal system by Patent Assertion Entities (PAEs).

In a letter last week to leaders of both the House and Senate, a wide range of interests—newspaper and magazine publishers, retailers, hospitals, restaurants, transit authorities, hotels, banks and credit unions, telecommunication companies, consumer electronics, marketers and advertisers, and retailers—joined consumer groups like the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and Public Knowledge, the motion picture industry, automobile manufactures, and grocers to seek comprehensive legislation.

Their unified voice joins the software industry and much of the high technology sector to reflect a "growing consensus that now is the time to address this issue." The broad push for legislation to address abusive patent litigation is a response to the fact that that the "growth and reach of patent troll activity in recent years has been astounding."

Since 2005, the number of defendants sued by patent trolls has quadrupled. Last year, they sued over 7,000 defendants and sent thousands more threat letters.

This activity cost the U.S. Economy $80 billion in 2011, and productive companies made $29 billion in direct payouts. Moreover, trolls no longer only sue large tech corporations. Small and medium-sized businesses of all types, including start-ups, are now the most frequent targets.

In 2012, trolls sued more non-tech companies than tech, spanning a wide range of American businesses. We seek reforms to the current system that would significantly curb trolls’ ability to extort settlement demands from retailers, technology companies, small businesses, financial services institutions, state and local government entities, and many others who are today the targets of their outrageous claims.

As my colleague David Perry recently pointed out, last year was a a banner year for patent litigation abuse. "NPEs filed more than half of 2012's patent suits, and their power isn't waning."

Today, the abuse of the broken patent litigation system by PAEs affects almost everyone.  It is not just a commercial tech issue.

The 'big tent' letter that went public last week is the latest manifestation of the growing frustration with abusive litigation and is the latest evidence of the current momentum behind Congress looking to act on patent assertion entities.  


Mark Bohannon | Mark Bohannon is Vice President of Global Public Policy and Government Affairs at Red Hat. Previously, he served as Senior Vice President, Public Policy and General Counsel at the Software & Information Industry Association (SIIA), the principal U.S. trade association for the software and digital content industry.

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