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06/13/2013

ACEC joining in effort to stop "patent trolls" from extorting small businesses

Imagine getting a threatening letter from an attorney half way across the country, demanding that you pay $1,000 per employee for the right to use your document scanner or your Wi-Fi system.  If you think it can't happen, think again.

Businesses all across the country are being threatened by these so-called "patent trolls," outfits that produce nothing themselves, but buy patents and then sue companies that supposedly infringe on them.

For the most part, patent trolls usually target small businesses, who generally don't have the financial ability to defend against a patent infringement lawsuit.  But large firms have not been immune.

Major hotel chains and coffee shops offering WiFi to customers, such as Marriott International and Caribou Coffee, for example, have been sued by the Chicago firm Innovatio IP Ventures, which claimed the WiFi networks infringed on its patents.

Legislation is pending in Congress to address this issue and the White House has also weighed in, announcing a series of executive orders and legislative requests last week to protect businesses from patent trolls.

ACEC's Vice President of Government Affairs Steve Hall and General Counsel Charles Kim met with senior staff of the House Judiciary Committee this week to brief them on the problem from the engineering industry's perspective and to offer the Council's help in advancing legislation.

Legislators from both parties have expressed the hope that a bill can be passed and signed into law before the end of the year.  They have asked, however, for ACEC’s help in gathering information on the scope of the problem.

If your company has been confronted by a demand for payment by one of these patent trolls, please report this as soon as possible to ACEC Ohio Executive Director Don Mader.

Go here to read a memorandum on patent abuse developed by the Patent Abuse Subcommittee of ACEC's Risk Management Committee.

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