For the past several months, we’ve exposed the flaws in the patent system and how they’re being exploited by opportunistic patent trolls looking to extort a quick buck – or hundreds of thousands of bucks, if you will – from businesses large and small. It’s a drain on innovation, a plague to all of technology and a drag on the economy.
Last week, our fight took a big step forward, as a gathering to highlight the patent troll problem and plot a path to legislation swelled into a standing-room only affair. The “big tent” meeting, hosted by the Coalition for Patent Fairness, drew a large, diverse crowd of influential industry representatives. Look at this amazing list of who showed up to listen, learn and weigh in:
- American Association of Advertising Agencies (4A)
- National Association of Broadcasters (NAB)
- Food Marketing Institute (FMI)
- National Grocers Association (NGA)
- American Hospital Association (AHA)
- Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA)
- National Retail Federation (NRF)
- National Restaurant Association (NRA)
- Financial Services Roundtable (FSR)
- The Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association (SIFMA)
- American Bankers Association (ABA)
- Newspaper Association of America (NAA)
- Entertainment Software Association (ESA)
- Engine Advocacy
- Public Knowledge
- Internet Association
- Internet Infrastructure Coalition
- Business Software Alliance
- Consumer Electronics Association
- Computer & Communications Industry Association (CCIA)
- Information Technology Industry Council (ITI)
- Software & Information Industry Association (SIIA)
Importantly, as you can see, many of these groups represent independent small businesses, the type of companies we hold near and dear as they make up a significant portion of our customer base.
These organizations – large and small – are fed up. They’re sick and tired of patent assertion entities (PAEs), more commonly known as patent trolls, and their often baseless but costly attacks. In a blog post on Patent Progress, Josh Lamel, Executive Director at The Foundation for Innovation and Internet Freedom, likened the energy at the big tent meeting to the iconic scene from “Network,” where Howard Beale (Peter Finch) persuades viewers to scream out “I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not going to take it anymore.”
There have been encouraging developments recently, with President Obama addressing the issue live in a Google+ hangout and New York Senator Charles Schumer unveiling plans to strengthen the America Invents Act to improve patent quality and reduce meritless litigation. But more is needed. No one silver bullet will solve the problem, so industry leaders are contributing ideas to concerned members of Congress.
We expect the Coalition for Patent Fairness, our host of the big tent meeting, to contribute and help pass a list of excellent and fair proposals designed to work together to knock out the most egregious abuses of the patent system. The Internet Association will also weigh in with strong and thoughtful legislative proposals.
The Internet Infrastructure Coalition is taking up the flag of end user rights. Patent trolls sue small business end users as “soft targets,” because it is not cost effective for these defendants to hire lawyers. Protecting end users from suit will limit the options for PAEs, forcing them to pursue the manufacturers or providers of common products or services, rather than their customers.
Combining our efforts in this war on trolls will have the maximum impact. There is true power in numbers, and the diverse group of people who have joined the fight is a clear indication that banding together can make change happen.