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Don’t Call ‘Em Trolls: Patent Assertion Entities Building Association

While the IP Rights Council, which would advocate for patent assertion entities, is still in the planning stages, a legislative push against PAEs—often derisively called "patent trolls"—is reaching a peak.

Patent assertion entities have had a tough go of it of late. Maybe that’s why they’re working to form a group to harness their collective clout.

The debate is just going to get hotter and the level of nuttiness and lack of real data is going to prevail, if we don’t start countering this.

What are patent assertion entities? PAEs are patent-holders that aren’t currently exercising them to make something, but enforce their intellectual property rights to collect licensing fees from accused infringers. They’re largely known to the public by the much-less-flattering name commonly bandied about on tech sites and by their legal opponents: “patent trolls.”

Could the creation of the IP Rights Council help a field under fire defend itself? More details below:

Still in incubation: The group’s existence wasn’t common knowledge until this week, when Warren Communications News’ Washington Internet Daily [subscription] uncovered information about it. The group’s website, which is not up publicly but still online in cached form, included reprinted articles that appeared supportive of its stance, including a USA Today op-ed by former Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ) arguing that legislation targeting “patent trolls” could place the entire patent system in peril. The Washington Internet Daily piece notes that the still-incubating group is in the midst of contacting potential members. “The debate is just going to get hotter and the level of nuttiness and lack of real data is going to prevail, if we don’t start countering this,” Russ Merbeth, chief policy counsel at Intellectual Ventures and an advocate for the formation of an industry group, told the publication.

Pressure building: News of the fledgling group’s formation comes at a time when many on the other side of the patent debate—more than 50 companies and industry groups that formed the Big Tent Coalition over the summer—are part of a legislative push against PAEs that’s gaining momentum. The coalition (which includes Google, the National Retail Federation, and the Computer and Communications Industry Association as members) met earlier this week to review a discussion draft of a bill [PDF] by Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) that incorporates many of the changes some advocates of patent reform seek to curb what the lawmaker terms “abusive patent litigation.” Other groups, such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the Internet Association, have also spoken up in favor of Goodlatte’s bill, which combines provisions from a number of previous pieces of proposed legislation. The Federal Trade Commission also put pressure on patent assertion entities, with its chairwoman calling for a look at the industry earlier this year.

When your industry has faced optics issues, what methods have you used to hold your own politically? Let us know your take in the comments.

(iStock/Thinkstock)

Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is the social media journalist for Associations Now, a former newspaper guy, and a man who is dangerous when armed with a good pun. MORE

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