Do you have Technology to block Robocalls? The FTC & FCC Want You!

By Gene Quinn
March 7, 2018

Do you have Technology to block Robocalls? The FTC & FCC Want You!The Federal Trade Commission and the Federal Communications Commission want you — at least if you are an innovator with a solution for preventing illegal Robocalls.

The FTC and FCC are seeking exhibitors for their joint Stop Illegal Robocalls Expo, which will be held Monday, April 23, 2018, from 10:00 a.m. to noon in the FCC’s Pepco Edison Place Gallery at 702 8th St. NW, Washington, DC.

Unwanted calls — including illegal robocalls, spoofed calls, and telemarketing — are a major source of complaints to both the FTC and FCC. If you are like me, you get these annoying telephone calls pushing a variety of services and products. The calls will come from what appears to be a local telephone number, and then when you answer you are directed somewhere else in hopes you will purchase a time share or whatever they are peddling. Being on the Do Not Call list seems to be completely ineffective.

Under Acting FTC Chairman Maureen K. Ohlhausen and FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, the agencies have combated this problem through various policy-making efforts and strong enforcement actions. Of course, at the end of the day it falls onto innovators with technical solutions.

“Consumers are fed up with illegal robocalls that disturb their privacy and often pitch scams,” said Acting FTC Chairman Ohlhausen. “We’re going to expand our fight against this scourge through initiatives like the upcoming Technology Expo and Policy Forum, which amplify our impact through close coordination with the FCC and other partners.”

“Scam robocalls and deceptive spoofing are real threats to American consumers, and they are the number one consumer complaint at the FCC,” said FCC Chairman Pai. “We’re committed to confronting this problem using every tool we have. I’m pleased to announce these efforts in our continued work with the FTC to protect consumers.”

Perhaps Ohlhausen and Pai should loop in Andrei Iancu, the newly sworn in Director of the United States Patent and Trademark Office. It is wonderful that the FTC and FCC are looking for technology solutions to combat the ever increasing problem of Robocalls, but coming up with a technology solution as seems to be desired by the FTC and FCC will be all the more difficult in a world where the USPTO and federal courts are openly hostile to software related innovations.

In any event, on March 23, the FTC and FCC will co-host a Policy Forum at FCC headquarters to discuss the regulatory challenges posed by illegal robocalls and what the FTC and FCC are doing to both protect consumers and encourage the development of private-sector solutions. The live video feed and other information related to this event will be available at: www.fcc.gov/news-events/events/2018/03/fighting-scourge-illegal-robocalls.

Then on April 23, the FTC and FCC will also co-host a Technology Expo for consumers at the Pepco Edison Place Gallery in Washington, D.C. This event will feature technologies, devices, and applications to minimize or eliminate the illegal robocalls consumers receive. More information on this Expo, including how innovators can participate, is available at: www.fcc.gov/news-events/events/2018/04/stop-illegal-robocalls-expo.

 

The Author

Gene Quinn

Gene Quinn is a Patent Attorney and Editor and founder of IPWatchdog.com. Gene is also a principal lecturer in the PLI Patent Bar Review Course and an attorney with Widerman Malek. Gene’s specialty is in the area of strategic patent consulting, patent application drafting and patent prosecution. He consults with attorneys facing peculiar procedural issues at the Patent Office, advises investors and executives on patent law changes and pending litigation matters, and works with start-up businesses throughout the United States and around the world, primarily dealing with software and computer related innovations. is admitted to practice law in New Hampshire, is a Registered Patent Attorney and is also admitted to practice before the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. CLICK HERE to send Gene a message.

Warning & Disclaimer: The pages, articles and comments on IPWatchdog.com do not constitute legal advice, nor do they create any attorney-client relationship. The articles published express the personal opinion and views of the author and should not be attributed to the author’s employer, clients or the sponsors of IPWatchdog.com. Read more.

Discuss this

There are currently 16 Comments comments. Join the discussion.

  1. Patent Investor March 7, 2018 3:01 pm

    The “local calling – forward facing number’ patent passed through the CAFC not long ago, just an FYI.

    Why don’t they just make it illegal for the debt collectors and telemarketers to make a call showing anything but their registered phone number?? Big money from the service providers??

    The GOP would rather cut off their…pinky finger than regulate a business!

  2. Ryan March 7, 2018 5:14 pm

    I am a software developer, and I have a working solution to block robo calls.

    And guess what? I also have 6 patents and 2 pending (unrelated to robocall blocking). If deemed necessary, I’d like to be able to enforce the exclusive rights that the Federal government has allegedly secured.

    So, dear Federal Government, if you want to see or make use of my technology for your current problem, here’s my bargain for you, and it’s quite simple:
    Follow the constitution.

    Namely, follow congressional and constitutional law that secures for a limited time the exclusive right to my innovation and solution to this particular problem you are facing, and if you adhere to your securing part of the bargain, I’ll be more than willing to participate in the sharing of my intellectual property.

    However, as it currently stands, I need evidence of such constitutional securing, and I find this very much lacking with the current existence of IPRs. Thus, such securing would entail the riddance of IPRs, as without such riddance, I have absolutely NO GUARANTEE that the Patent Office will not retract the exclusive right to my invention once it has been granted by that very Office. Scrutinize and examine all you want prior to an allowance; I don’t care. Let’s even go to a court and let them take away my patent. But once YOU issue a patent, and so that I, and investors alike, have a legal instrument in which we can put our faith that others will not be able to steal my invention, YOU ALONE MUST NOT TAKE AWAY the patent post-issuance. Because when I filed the initial application, I entered into a patent bargain with you by sharing my innovation to the masses, and, likewise, you should uphold your end of the patent bargain.

    Until then, the deal is off, and I’ll just happily bask in my solution without being bothered by robo calls and telemarketers.

    So, no fair patent bargain? Then no sharing for you. (And no Progress of Science and useful Arts for the rest of the United States either.)

    #preach
    #PatentLivesMatter

  3. Gene Quinn March 7, 2018 6:10 pm

    Ryan-

    Any interest in turning your comment into an op-ed for publication on IPWatchdog.com?

  4. Ryan March 7, 2018 8:43 pm

    Gene-
    Perhaps later when surrendering anonymity will not put my property interests at risk. I may reach out via your Contact Us form at a later date. Maybe we can scratch each other’s backs if the time is right.

    In the meantime, however, feel free to use the aforementioned comment, as well as this comment, in your publications to support the inventor community and shed some light on the issues we are facing, subject to said use citing the comment(s) as being attributed to an anonymous inventor.

  5. angry dude March 7, 2018 11:04 pm

    Ryan @2

    Dude

    You are green
    This patent monkey business is all about making money for anyone but you

    Rely on trade secrets and copyright s if you can

  6. Benny March 8, 2018 5:36 am

    Ryan,
    What would you do if an economic operator offered you cash up front for your software but refused to guarantee IP protection?

  7. Ryan March 8, 2018 10:58 am

    angry dude:
    I find your lack of punctuation confounding.

    Benny:
    Your scenario “if an economic operator offered me cash up front for [my] software” implies that said economic operator first has knowledge that my software exists and solves some problem. Accordingly, before I would provide any operational knowledge regarding my software to said operator, I would enter into a non-disclosure agreement with the operator prohibiting the disclosure of my solution and our discussions without my consent and with financial remedy if disclosed.

    Those conditions being met, then I would happily discuss licensing options with the operator, including even an offer of cash up front whilst refusing to guarantee IP protection, if the right cash offer is agreed upon. That would be how I would enter into a bargain arrangement.

    Now, with patent protection, if I possess an invention and think it should be protected by a patent grant, and if I believe this invention is indeed patent eligible and allowable, then pursuing patent protection should be based on a calculated risk on that belief when the patent application is filed. Because this is when I share my invention with the world. But I do so on the assumption that my invention is indeed patent eligible and allowable and will be protected. The bargain here is that if the Office agrees that my claimed limitations are allowable patent subject matter, then I shall be secured for a limited time the exclusive right to my invention, and once the limited time has expired, all may use the invention. That might very well be a worthy patent bargain to pursue, but only if the bargain is upheld by the one who secures the patent. I’ve done my part in the sharing, but that assumes that the Office will also uphold their part in the securing. However, as the data is being revealed from this current “IPR experiment”, I find it difficult to see how the Office is upholding their part.

    Namely, how can a district court and the PTAB disagree on the same merits? Panel stacking and admission to the same from Michelle Lee? What has the Supreme Court already said regarding taking away that which has already been granted? And which branch of government can nullify a patent? Where’s the jury? What is happening to U.S. innovation?

    I can tell you that I’m waiting to see what happens with Oil States before I decide to continue my current path of being an entrepreneur and innovator. Failing some light at the end of the tunnel, I’ll just start passing out my CV to big corporations because they have won the war and my dreams are shot, and I better get in line to get an employee ID number soon so I can at least earn a little money before my job becomes automated.

  8. angry dude March 8, 2018 12:13 pm

    Ryan @7

    “I would enter into a non-disclosure agreement with the operator prohibiting the disclosure of my solution ..”

    You are so green and naive, dude

    NDAs aren’t worth the paper they are written on – they have even less enforceable value than patents…

    and god forbid you to pass any source code around…

    trade secrets for any operational knowledge and copyrights for compiled software binaries

    even better – keep all of your software on a server side and expose only client interface via web services or something

    One more time: No NDAs for anything of any importance !

    You’ll thank me later

  9. angry dude March 8, 2018 12:23 pm

    Benny @6

    What “IP protection” are you talking about, dude ?

    Copyright protection for software is a given with criminal penalties for illegal copying and distribution

    Patent protection for software is extremely difficult, expensive and time consuming to obtain nowadays and completely worthless at the end

    What other “IP protection” is there ???

  10. Benny March 9, 2018 5:14 am

    Ryan,
    You may have developed great innovation, but I wouldn’t assume you are the only horse in the race. If someone else comes up with a similar solution and files for patent protection, then granted or not you are left out in the cold. If you want to see ROI, you want to be first in line at the bank, not first in line at the patent office. (maybe both)
    Angry, I know nothing of Ryan’s expertise, so I am assuming, for the sake of discussion, that he has some unique innovative breakthrough up his sleeve, and not just some vague algorithm which would take a team of programmers 6 months to reduce to practice.

  11. angry dude March 9, 2018 9:43 am

    Benny @10

    “..some vague algorithm which would take a team of programmers 6 months to reduce to practice”

    That’s what I have in my main independent claims

    But you have to be complete idiot these days not to provide some simplified and straightforward reduction to practice (source code) as part of your patent app so dudes like you can’t claim that the patent is not enabled and therefore invalid

    Regardless, it takes months to optimize any complex algorithm for use in final consumer products

  12. Ryan March 9, 2018 10:33 am

    Benny:
    “If you want to see ROI, you want to be first in line at the bank…”

    I want to agree; however, there are multiple examples in support of disagreement with this statement. I’ll just spare one: Facebook. Facebook had a similar solution to that of MySpace — a social network — and they were not first in line. FB simply had a better value proposition, particularly developer conferences and API integration, enabling all sorts of services to be plugged in to their social network as a platform.

    It is my hope that by contrasting “unique innovation breaktrough” against “just some vague algorithm which would take a team of programmers 6 months to reduce to practice”, you are not implying that the time, the apparent state of algorithm complexity, or the quantity of minds required to reduce a solution to practice carries any weight as to a technological solution’s merits for patentability.

    angry dude:
    An NDA serves as an acknowledgement by a party to the existence of certain material and an agreement regarding its disclosure. Accordingly, such acknowledgement also then can serve as a reason for treble damages upon patent infringement of said material by said party if later discovered. Thus, not pursuing such acknowledgement by signature at the outset would be considered categorically green and naive … much like your full stop punctuation efforts and oxymoronic mentioning of “expos[ing] only client interface via web services”? (Tip: I think you need to research the definitions for “client interface” and “web services”.) I hate to retort, but it appears as if I’m dealing with a comment troll. That said, I’ll spend no more time responding to your comments.

  13. Anon March 9, 2018 7:06 pm

    Ryan,

    angry dude often appears to be a “plant,” as his message often falls along the rhetoric that the Efficient Infringers WANT as a takeaway.

    When people no longer bother, the Efficient Infringers have won. There are plenty of us (named and anonymous) that remain fighting for a strong patent system.

  14. angry dude March 10, 2018 8:29 pm

    Ryan@12

    aren’t we picky. dude ?

    “client interface” OR “web services” then

    everyone knows what I meant anyway, except maybe you

    Anon @13

    inventors no longer bother, the Efficient Infringers have won.
    true statement, dude

  15. Anon March 10, 2018 9:47 pm

    angry dude @ 14,

    If so, then why are YOU continuing to post?

    If so, then please stop posting.

    Help – or get the F out of the way.

  16. Ian Mendoza March 13, 2018 2:24 am

    I have just read an article that also talks about robocalls at https://www.lemberglaw.com/what-are-robocalls/. Hope this help people who want to get rid of legit company who use robocalls as their marketing method.

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