Tim Cook Complained about Patent Trolls in May and Today President Obama Called on Congress to Assist US Tech Companies
At the conclusion of many of our legal related reports we make note that "A 2011 study showed that Patent Trolls cost tech companies $29 Billion and a 2012 study made the case that patent trolling was out of control." We do this because Apple is one of the top targets of these patent trolls. While I'm sure that there are some in the patent troll community that are legitimate IP defenders for the smaller developer taking on the larger corporations, studies have confirmed that there's another distinct class of patent trolls that are just in it for the money, period. They hunt down and pay for patents for one purpose alone: to hold companies like Apple ransom. These specialized law and IP firms have no intention of ever making a product; it's just about how much they can rake in with licensing fees by arguing the tiniest of "patent claim" to death. Companies like Apple can't counter sue because these companies make nothing. So the law is slanted in the patent trolls favor. Tech companies have complained for years about the growing menace that these patent trolls are causing their businesses and it now appears that President Obama is going to push for yet tougher legislation in an effort to slow down patent trolling that is now out of control in the US.
During the recent Senate Hearings surrounding Apple's taxes in Ireland, there was another concern of Apple's, Intellectual property. Cook stated that "I actually think that we require much more work on IP in this country... The U.S. court system is currently structured in such a way that it's currently difficult to get the protections a technology company needs, because the cycle is very long."
"For us, our intellectual property is so important to our company," Cook argued. "I would love to see the system strengthened to protect it."
Well, it appears that President Obama was listening because today he called on Congress to take several steps to make it more difficult for so-called patent assertion entities (PAEs) to collect money from alleged infringers of their patents. PAEs, often called patent trolls, are patent-owning companies whose main business model is demanding license fees instead of making products based on their patents.
Congress and the White House need to take steps to curb patent abuse by companies that "essentially leverage and hijack somebody else's idea and see if they can extort some money out of them," Obama said in a statement.
Lawmakers in both the Senate and the House of Representatives are also pushing for bills targeting patent trolls.
Even after Congress passed a patent reform law, the America Invents Act, in 2011, many tech companies and digital rights groups have continued to complain about abusive actions by PAEs. In 2012, companies defined as PAEs filed more than 2,500 lawsuits, about 60 percent of all patent lawsuits in the U.S., according to a report released Tuesday by the President's Council of Economic Advisers, the National Economic Council, and the White House Office of Science & Technology Policy.
That's about 1,000 more lawsuits than PAEs brought in 2011, the report said. In 2010, PAEs brought just 731 patent lawsuits, representing 29 percent of all patent lawsuits filed, said the report, referencing research by Colleen Chien, a professor at the Santa Clara University School of Law.
Obama also asked Congress to pass legislation providing incentives for patent-owning companies to make their licensing fee demand letters public, and to allow district court judges more discretion in awarding attorney's fees as a sanction for abusive patent lawsuits. Congress should also require companies that send demand letters, file infringement lawsuits or seek a patent review by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to file updated ownership information, allowing transparency about who is bringing those actions, Obama said.
The new challenges for patents on computer-enabled inventions endorsed by the White House would be part of a post-grant review proceeding at the USPTO for business method patents.