In the technology space, you have innovators who start a trend, then you have the early adopters, who get in when the trend is hot. Suddenly, that trend will reach a tipping point, and a majority of people will be on board. It seems that the patent troll issue has reached a tipping point, at least in the minds of state attorneys general nationwide.
Bill Sorrell, attorney general of the state of Vermont, is widely regarded as the innovator in this area, as he was the first AG to take an aggressive stance on patent trolls. Other early adopters, like Martha Coakley of Massachusetts and Jon Bruning of Nebraska, soon followed. With the war on patent trolls reaching critical mass, South Carolina attorney general Alan Wilson has joined 43 other state AGs in asking the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to take strong action on the patent troll problem.
While Congress debates new legislation designed to deal with the rise in patent litigation from non-practicing entities (NPEs), the FTC is also considering launching a study into the matter. In the letter to the FTC, the attorneys general supported a fact-finding mission, as data will help regulators improve consumer protection in this area.
In an interview with thestate.com, Wilson summarized the danger of the patent troll saying, “they patent this thing that is a concept and then extort small businesses who don’t have the finances to litigate it.” He also recommended caution in dealing with the issue. “We are very concerned by what we are observing. But you don’t run kicking in doors with guns blazing until you know what’s on the other side.”
Wilson has met with at least two businesses in the Palmetto State that dealt with patent troll issues. Laminar Research, which makes flight simulation software, is one company, and the company’s owner told Wilson that he had accumulated nearly $2 million in legal fees in efforts to fight off trolls.
To learn firsthand what state attorneys general are saying on the topic of patent trolls, join three of them: Bill Sorrell of Vermont, Jon Bruning of Nebraska and Chris Koster of Missouri, for a roundtable discussion. The event, taking place on Feb. 4, 2014 in New York City, will also feature general counsel from companies such as DuPont, Rackspace and Walmart. For more information, or to sign up for the event, click here.
To read more on the patent troll issue, check out the following: