Associations Launch Ad Campaign Against Patent Trolls

The Internet Association (IA), National Restaurant Association (NRA), National Retail Federation (NRF) and the Food Marketing Institute (FMI) launched a print and radio advertising campaign in targeted states and districts across the country urging Congress to put an end to patent abuse and to protect American businesses from patent trolls.

The campaign will ask voters across multiple states—including Illinois, Iowa, Nevada, Ohio, Texas, Vermont, and Virginia, among others—to contact their Congressional representatives and ask them to take action now to “stop bad patents and stop the trolls.”

“Patent trolls use bad patents to bully companies of all sizes, in every economic sector, from coast-to-coast,” said Michael Beckerman, President and CEO, The Internet Association. “This is essentially legalized extortion, forcing hard working businesses to go to court or write a check—money they can’t spend on hiring and growth.”

Patent trolls are draining the economy of $80 billion every year and are targeting an increasingly broad array of businesses—moving on from just technology companies and start-ups—to Main Street businesses like supermarkets, restaurants, and retailers.  Even charities have been victimized by patent trolls.

“Litigation demand letters from patent trolls is a significant and growing concern for the restaurant and foodservice industry,” said Scott DeFife, EVP, Policy and Government Affairs, National Restaurant Association. “It is critical that we increase transparency and disclosure around who these companies are in order to change the market dynamics behind these frivolous and litigious claims. We believe that doing so will help provide significant relief for the restaurant and foodservice industry, as well as other end-users of the commonplace technologies often in question. We are hopeful that Congress will examine the patent troll industry this fall, and push for a common-sense solution that protects main street businesses.”

Fortunately, momentum is building to stop patent trolls. Under the leadership of Chairman Goodlatte and Chairman Leahy, Congress is working to make sure the patent system is promoting real innovation and to deter abusive patent litigation. The White House has also issued a set of legislative proposals and issued Executive Actions. We are hopeful that the bi-partisan support to address abusive patent troll legislation will provide some relief to American innovators and entrepreneurs.

“The intentional misuse of the patent system by patent trolls not only crowds our courts with unnecessary lawsuits but also hampers retailers’ adoption of technology aimed at improving the customer experience,” Matthew Shay, President and CEO, National Retail Federation said. “Retailers are among the most frequent targets of patent trolls due to the industry’s use of cutting-edge innovations. NRF’s strong position on patent trolls and support for this association-led campaign demonstrates our industry’s commitment to addressing this issue.”

The ad campaign follows on the heels of a number of recent developments on the patent troll issue. In July, 50 organizations signed on to a letter calling on Congressional leaders to take action to stop patent abuse. Another letter followed later that month from a group of more than 40 companies from a variety of sectors to Congressional leaders urging Congress to make it easier to challenge low quality patents. And last week, the GAO issued a report that confirmed patent abuse has a costly impact on America’s businesses and economy.

“Supermarkets are increasingly the targets of patent trolls. In recent months retailers have been sent demand letters or sued for using widely adopted technology, such as store-locater functions and QR codes,” said Erik Lieberman, Regulatory Counsel, Food Marketing Institute. “The activities of trolls pose an unfair and unnecessary barrier to entrepreneurship, making it harder for retailers to operate their businesses and communicate with customers. Congress must act to address these abuses.”

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