Patent troll takes on the FTC

Infamous troll MPHJ files a lawsuit against the Federal Trade Commission

In the lore of Dungeons & Dragons monsters, there are many variants of the troll, from the War Troll to the Rock Troll to the Giant Troll. But one thing these beasts have in common is their ability to regenerate from most damage and live to fight another day. It seems that this trait might carry over to a newer species of troll, the patent troll, which is prone to get up off the mat and fight bigger targets every day.

Such is the case with perhaps the most notorious patent troll of all: MPHJ Technologies, which has set its sights on a very different target: the federal government. 

The company is best known for sending cease and desist letters to companies that use “scan-to-email” technology. They have sent these letters to large companies, like Coca-Cola, and to small, mom-and-pop type operations. In many cases, the recipients of these letters agree to pay a fee to MPHJ to avoid costly litigation. Some see this as a ruthless tactic. In fact, attorneys general from states like Vermont, Minnesota and Nebraska have gone after MPHJ or its attorneys in efforts to protect consumers. 

Now, however, MPHJ is turning its attention proactively to going after the federal government. According to Ars Technica, it has filed a lawsuit against the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), claiming that the commission is interfering with its right to enforce its patents. In the complaint, MPHJ accused the FTC of threatening to sue the company for deceptive trade practices, and MPHJ feels that this is an overreach of the commission’s powers, as patent licensing should not be considered commerce. The filing also states that the FTC offered an out-of-court settlement but then “sought relief far beyond what the FTC could obtain by litigating in federal court and securing a judgment.” 

MPHJ’s actions have helped bring the patent troll issue to the spotlight. General counsel and state attorneys general alike have turned their attention to the issue, and an assortment of AGs and GCs will be speaking about the topic at an upcoming roundtable event. The free event will take place on Feb. 4, 2014 from 3:00-5:00 pm at the Intercontinental New York Barclay. It will feature the attorneys general from Nebraska, Missouri and Vermont as well as the general counsel from Walmart, du Pont and Rackspace. For more information, or to register for the event, click here.

 

For more on MPHJ, check out the following stories:

Attorneys general talk the State of the Trolls

New ad campaign looks to shine the spotlight on patent trolls

Minnesota AG takes a stand against patent trolls

Vermont sues patent troll for violating state laws

Managing Editor

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Rich Steeves

Richard P. Steeves is Managing Editor of InsideCounsel magazine, where he covers the intellectual property and compliance arenas. Rich earned a B.A. in English Literature...

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