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Posts Tagged: "extortion"

Taking Aim at Patent Troll Demand Letters

Bad demand letters are a big problem for U.S. small businesses, costing them millions of dollars in settlement fees and legal costs annually. Patent trolls often operate through shell companies and these bad acting companies send form demand letters to hundreds or even thousands of small businesses at a time, claiming with little or no evidence that they are infringing on patents. These mass demand letters are often misleading and sometimes outright false. This type of activity has been characterized as “extortion-like” by the federal courts, and gives hard working innovators a bad name.

Identifying the Real Patent Extortionists: A Review of the Extortionist Demand Letter

Congress is on the cusp of passing legislation that is said to be designed to control the so-called “patent troll.” Of course, as belatedly recognized by the person who came up with the moniker “troll” in 1993, Peter Detkin (former Assistant General Counsel at Intel at the time), the word “troll” is often in the eye of the beholder. Indeed nearly every litigator will tell you that term “troll” is commonly used against any opponent in a patent litigation suit, much as Arthur R. Miller asserted that “a frivolous lawsuit is any case brought against your client, and litigation abuse is anything the opposing lawyer is doing.” Miller, Simplified Pleading, Meaningful Days in Court and Trial on the Merits: Reflections on the Deformation of Federal Practice, 88 NYU Law Rev. 286, 302 (2013).

Chief Judge Rader Speaks Out About Patent Litigation Abuse

Chief Judge Rader: “The patent system has a narrow focus. It is not a consumer affairs program. It is not a manufacturers guarantee compliance program. It’s not a competition program. It has one objective, summarized well by the Constitution: promote the progress of science and the useful arts. It’s there to create more investment and more incentive for innovation and invention. The things that the patent system is criticized for is not its job.”

New Patent Reform Takes Swing at Patent Trolls

Yesterday Congressman Peter DeFazio (D-OR) and Congressman Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) introduced the Saving High-tech Innovators from Egregious Legal Disputes Act, or SHIELD Act for short. If ever passed into law the SHIELD Act would ostensibly adopt a variation on the English Rule, where the losing patent owner pays the legal fees of the victorious patent defendant when there was no “reasonable likelihood” that the patentee would prevail in the litigation. If theAct required a claim chart upon filing, applied across the board to all those who would seek to manipulate the patent system and not just computer/software patents and defined “reasonable likelihood of success” I would be on board with both feet.  As it is, I am on board with one foot and hopefully that improvements can be made to this important piece of legislation.

Indicia of Extortion – Federal Circuit Slams Patent Troll

It was also determined that the underlying patent litigation was brought for no other reason than to extract nuisance payments despite the fact that there was no infringement. Specifically, the district court determined that Eon-Net filed the lawsuit against Flagstar had “indicia of extortion” because it was part of Eon-Net’s history of filing nearly identical patent infringement complaints against a plethora of diverse defendants, where Eon-Net followed each filing with a demand for a quick settlement at a price far lower than the cost to defend the litigation.

Extortion Patent Style: Small Business in the Troll Crosshairs

Between 1995 and 2009 the overall median patent litigation damage award was $5.2 million, but between 2002-2009 there was a huge discrepancy between the average damage award for practicing entities versus non-practicing entities. The median award for non-practicing entities was $12.9 million, while the median award for practicing entities lagged far behind at $3.9 million. No wonder there is ever increasing activities by those the Federal Trade Commission refers to as “patent assertion entities,” which seems to be yet another sanitized name for patent troll.