Patent Trolling Fight Forges Unusual Allies

The Coalition for Patent Fairness has received support from numerous industries and associations, even ones that typically don’t see eye to eye on policy issues.

Who dare cross the bridge guarded by patent trolls? Associations from nearly every industry, that’s who.

In a letter to congressional leaders last month, 50 organizations representing a wide variety of industries urged lawmakers to find a solution to so-called patent trolling—where a company purchases patents with no intention to use them in business but sues other companies for infringement. It’s a tactic that has received a lot of attention this year from policymakers and the media and that brought about the resurgence of the Coalition for Patent Fairness.

CPF— founded in 2006 to lobby on behalf of consumer technology giants like Google and Blackberry as Congress considered legislation related to patent litigation—has become the “big tent” for a large network of groups affected by patent trolling.

“The issue has definitely brought together some strange bedfellows,” said Matt Tanielian, executive director of CPF.

Groups like the Motion Picture Association of America and the Internet Association—which have been at odds over copyright issues—have been able to put their differences aside and get behind the anti-trolling effort. Organizations representing retail, grocers, wireless carriers, hotels, transportation, consumer electronics, publishers, and restaurants (to name a few) are doing the same.

“What sometimes gets lost is there’s a reason why all of these groups are together. The reason you are interested in this issue is because you have become a target of patent trolls, plain and simple,” Tanielian said.

Getting so many diverse groups engaged required “a little organizational work,” he said, “but the desire to work on the issue has been organic. These folks are engaging with the issue because they have a problem that they want to solve.”

Still, Tanielian had to get some members of the coalition—associations typically not active in intellectual property issues—up to speed on patent trolling.

“This is a problem that we’ve been working on for years, so it’s not much of a challenge for us to sit down with somebody and say, ‘Here’s the lay of the land, here’s who the players are, here’s what the issues are, here’s where we stand today,’” he said. “We’re happy to help people get up to speed, educated, and engaged, because we think this is obviously a huge issue for us and having others working on it is only going to help us.”

At least three separate bills with bipartisan support have been introduced in Congress to limit lawsuits by companies that own patents but don’t produce products. And in June, Federal Trade Commission Chairwoman Edith Ramirez called for an investigation into “patent assertion entities,” saying they may be hurting consumers and the economy.


Rob Stott

By Rob Stott

Rob Stott is a contributing editor for Associations Now. MORE

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