Recently, the Application Developers Alliance held a Google+ Hangout session with FTC Commissioner Maureen Ohlhausen. Abusive patent demand letters was a hot issue during the discussion. Some of the app developers conveyed their unsettling experiences with receiving threatening, bogus patent demand letters and asked that the FTC get more involved in the issue.
Commissioner Ohlhausen said the FTC receives a high volume of complaints on the issue and that it has the authority to go after companies who build a business on abusive patent demand letters. In fact, the FTC is currently doing a study on demand letters.
We at Conversant applaud the FTC’s move to tackle the issue. Our position is that the patent licensing industry should forthrightly condemn the practices of bad actors that are victimizing the innocent– just as responsible members of other industries condemn the predatory practices of bad actors in their fields. We can’t ignore the mounting anecdotal evidence that demand letters are harming one of the most critical job creation sectors.
That’s why we in July 2014 we launched “Stand Up to the Demand”, a campaign designed to help small businesses identify and respond to extortionist patent demand letters.
For its part, the FTC is now moving ahead on its study of Patent Assertion Entities (PAE) activities. Known in government parlance as a 6(b) study, more information is available here: http://www.ftc.gov/policy/studies/patent-assertion-entities-pae-study
Conversant is pleased to be participating in the FTC’s PAE study. We share the belief of former USPTO director David Kappos, who once described the U.S. patent system as “our country’s investment plan – a giant 401k through which we pay a little extra now form more great innovations in the future.” As a vital guarantor of our nation’s future, the patent system certainly warrants that description. Let’s not forfeit our future by allowing patent trolls to corrupt it today.