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Patents Government

FTC Chairwoman Speaks On Growing US Patent Problem 87

ectoman writes "In a recent policy speech, Federal Trade Commission Chairwoman Edith Ramirez indicated that the FTC might be preparing to seriously address patent abuse in the United States. Mark Bohannon, Vice President of Corporate Affairs and Global Public Policy at Red Hat, has reviewed Ramirez's remarks, calling them 'some of the most direct and specific to date from a senior U.S. Government official regarding "harmful PAE [patent assertion entities] activities."' Bohannon writes that the FTC's proposed roadmap for patent reform 'is both ambitious and doable,' and he discusses how the agency could make its potential contributions to reforms most effective. The piece arrives one week after Bohannon analyzed other patent reform efforts currently ongoing in Washington—in a piece Slashdot readers have been discussing."
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FTC Chairwoman Speaks On Growing US Patent Problem

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  • by electrofelix ( 1079387 ) on Monday July 01, 2013 @10:44PM (#44161589)
    Not completely.

    One of the abuses with patents is the continuous application for patents on the same area with minor adjustments on previous patents in order to essentially prevent the original invention patented from being free from patents once the initial one has expired.

    It's certainly more limited in scope because they can't just wait until the initial patent is almost expired, but it is a problem that could easily be solved if examiners were willing to say that minor alterations do not a new invention make.
  • by Camael ( 1048726 ) on Monday July 01, 2013 @11:03PM (#44161697)

    No, parent post has a point.

    Let me illustrate this with actual examples [arstechnica.com] where patent trolls sued small businesses for using a modern office scanner to scan documents to e-mail.

    The Project Paperless via AdzPro letter-writing campaign is a kind of lowest-common-denominator patent demand. Patent-licensing companies are going after the users of everyday technology rather than their traditional targets, the tech companies that actually make technology. Smaller and smaller companies are being targeted. ...Project Paperless and its progeny don’t have any interest in going after the Canons and the Xeroxes of the world. After all, they have patent lawyers on payroll already and are in a far better position to push back. Project Paperless' spawn—AdzPro, AllLed, GosNel, and the others listed above—exemplify the new strategy. They send out vast quantities of letters, mainly to businesses that never could have imagined they’d be involved in any kind of patent dispute. They send them from anonymous and ever-changing shell companies. And at the end of the day, they either file only a few lawsuits—as Project Paperless did—or none at all, which has been the AdzPro strategy thus far.

    “Going after the end users may ultimately be more lucrative for them,” said one patent litigator at a technology company that's closely monitoring the AdzPro situation. “If they extract a small amount from each possible end user, the total amount might well end up being a much larger sum than they could ever get from the manufacturers. The ultimate pot of gold could end up being much bigger."

    Or other cases where frivolous suits were filed against small businesses for the use of technologies like WIFI [eff.org].

    In typical patent troll style, these shell companies (with names like AdzPro, FanPar, and HunLos) are asking businesses and users for a few thousand dollars—far less than what litigation would cost—as a licensing fee for using this basic technology. Unwilling or unable to lawyer up, most choose the more convenient route of settling ...
    Over the past few years, we saw Lodsys threaten and sue a number of app developers for using technologies provided that companies like Apple and Google require their app developers to use. More recently, a patent troll called Innovatio has been suing restaurants, hotels, and companies for using WiFi. Yes, that’s right. WiFi.

    My point is twofold: 1) Patents are being abused by patent trolls, who do not create, nor provide any incentive to creators and 2) Patent abuse is spreading to cause great distress to the general public. I'm sure that some of these businesses, when threatened, would opt to forgo the use of technologies such as scanners, WIFI etc. Scaring people off with frivolous lawsuits from using technology that could improve their performance, efficiency, efficacy or make their lives better is blocking progress.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 01, 2013 @11:27PM (#44161817)

    Mickey Mouse is protected by copyright, not patent.

    Copyright relates to works regarding mostly publication and display.
    Trademarks relate to logos, names, slogans, and such.
    Patents relate to inventions. You make a good point, but your example is inadequate.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 01, 2013 @11:42PM (#44161865)

    From TFA:

    IV. PAE Harm is a Symptom of a Larger Problem

    But Commission activity should be just one piece of a broader response. Flaws in the patent system are likely fueling much of the real costs associated with PAE activities. PAEs are good at monetizing patents. But effective monetization of low quality patents imposes a de facto tax on productive economic activity with little or no offsetting benefit for consumers

Perfection is acheived only on the point of collapse. - C. N. Parkinson