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Category Archives: Intellectual Property

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Who owns the photo?

Posted in Copyright, Intellectual Property

You may have heard about the dispute of copyright ownership over a selfie taken by a macaque in 2011. The wildlife photographer who owned the camera claimed ownership when a website published the photo without his permission.

Under U.S. law, copyright in a photograph is the property of the person who presses the shutter on the camera — not the person who owns the camera, and not even the person in the photo. Unless a written agreement exists that makes the photo a work made for hire, any person you ask to take your picture with your camera owns the copyright in that photo — not you. How many of us have those photos on our cameras or cell phones? Selfies appear to be a better idea. But do monkeys own copyrights?

The answer is: “No, they do not.” The U.S. Copyright Office issued a document in December 2014, reiterating that it will not register works produced by nature, animals or plants. According to the Copyright Office, a photograph taken by a monkey is unprotected intellectual property. The monkey selfie falls into the public domain and may be used by anyone without permission.

So maybe the answer to owning those vacation photos of yourself is a drone? The Copyright Act states that copyright protection subsists in original works of authorship that are made either directly or with the aid of a machine or device. Copyright in photos from a drone operated directly by a human most likely are owned by …

A potential game-changer in trademark registration proceedings

Posted in Information Technology, Trademarks

In trademark infringement litigation, the critical and usually pivotal issue is whether there is a likelihood of confusion between two allegedly similar marks. Eliminating a defendant’s ability to defend against an allegation of likelihood of confusion can be tantamount to establishing liability against the defendant. Yet, that will be the situation for many defendants following the U.S. Supreme Court’s March 24, 2015 decision in B& B Hardware, Inc. v. Hargis Industries, Inc. In that case, the Supreme Court held a defendant can be precluded from contesting “likelihood of confusion” if that issue, or a non-materially different issue, was previously decided between the parties in the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board (TTAB), a tribunal in the U.S Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).

At first blush, the decision might not appear unusual. The doctrine of “issue preclusion,” a doctrine that prevents a party from relitigating an issue previously decided between parties, is long established law. TTAB decisions, however, are different for several reasons. First, the TTAB is part of an administrative agency (the USPTO), not part of the judicial system. Second, TTAB decisions are based on “the mark as shown in the application [for trademark registration] and as used on the good described in the application,” not the mark as actually used in the marketplace. Third, and perhaps far more significant in practical terms, many trademark registration proceedings in the past have been conducted under the assumption that the stakes involved in the proceeding were relatively modest. TTAB proceeds were viewed as …

Protecting your brand in the age of gTLDs dot sucks

Posted in gTLDs, Intellectual Property, Trademarks

ICANN has made it possible to serve up every brand owner’s worst nightmare; welcome to [yourbrand].sucks. ICANN and registries of new gTLDs have painted a rosy picture of the new Internet landscape, advocating that the introduction of new top level domains, like .app and .restaurant is a way to increase choice and competition. Unfortunately, the introduction of the new gTLDs has created a harsh reality for brand owners who are forced to decide how far they are willing to go to protect their valuable brands through the preemptive purchase of domain names with otherwise undesirable gTLDs.

Would-be gTLD domain registries were required to pay at least $175,000 to obtain the right to offer domain names with a new gTLD of their choice, so it was understood that the cost to domain registrants for a second level domain wouldn’t necessarily be cheap. Plus, the registrars need to mark the prices up to account for integration, registration and the continued maintenance of the domains. When brand owners find themselves paying top dollar for second level domain names only for the purpose of preventing someone from disparaging their brand, exorbitant registration costs may feel like blackmail.…

Sixth Circuit adopts broad view of trade secret preemption

Posted in FTC issues, Intellectual Property

The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals recently took a broad view of preemption under the Uniform Trade Secrets Act (UTSA) and held that Ohio’s version of the UTSA preempted state-law claims for tortious interference with prospective business relationships and conspiracy to misappropriate trade secrets because those claims arose from the same set of facts as a trade secret misappropriation claim. Stolle Machinery Co., LLC v. RAM Precision Industries, No. 13-4103 (6th Cir. Mar. 16, 2015). In reaching its holding, the Sixth Circuit noted that federal and state courts across the nation are divided about the scope of trade secret preemption under the UTSA, and the Supreme Court of Ohio has not yet addressed this issue.

The UTSA provides for damages and injunctive relief to a plaintiff whose trade secrets have been misappropriated. The UTSA contains a preemption clause that preempts “conflicting tort, restitutionary and other laws” of a state which provide civil remedies for misappropriation of a trade secret.…

gTLD update: .adult and .porn on the horizon

Posted in Intellectual Property, Trademarks

The Internet was in a tizzy back in 2011 when ICM Registry began selling .xxx domain names for use by adult entertainment providers, selling nearly 250,000 addresses and netting more than $50 million. Just last year the registry sold sex.xxx for $3 million dollars, the highest price paid for a non-dot-com address. Which leads us to wonder if the addition of .adult and .porn will generate the same concerns and profits. ICM Registry has set aside nearly 1,000 domain names such as sex.porn, hoping to replicate the success they had with .xxx. But the concern for many trademark holders, as was the case with .xxx, is how to protect their brands during the launch of .adult and .porn?

ICM Registry has set up an elaborate registration period, in effect now through the launch to the general public, which is expected in early June. The two gTLDs opened their Sunrise periods March 2, which will give trademark holders who are registered in the Trademark Clearinghouse (TMCH) the opportunity to secure their registered trademark within the new top level domains.  Domains names are available on a first-come, first-served basis to validated marks in the TMCH. The cost of registration fees will be the standard registration fees without any additional sunrise application fees.

Once the Sunrise period has closed, .adult and .porn will launch a Sunrise B period from April 6 to April 30 for .xxx Sunrise B applicants. Sunrise B applicants consist of trademark owners who participated in the .xxx Sunrise B …

Expediting patent examination in the United States

Posted in Intellectual Property, Patents

Though the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) has reduced patent prosecution time a bit during the past five years, it still takes, on average, at least 18 months before the patent examiner acts upon an application. Throw in two or more office actions, and the average pendency of a patent application is more than three years from the filing date to either issuance or abandonment. However, a number of programs are available that can significantly reduce prosecution time.

Track One prioritized examination (PE) was introduced in September 2011 and provides expedited examination of a patent application for an additional fee. Though the additional fee is $4,140 ($2,070 for small entities), examination is significantly compressed. On average, PE results in either a notice of allowance or a final rejection in about seven months. Applicants must request PE at the time the application is filed, or at the time a request for continued examination (RCE) is filed.1

Accelerated examination (AE) also continues to be available, but is generally less desirable than prioritized examination. An AE petition only requires an additional fee of $140, but the other requirements are burdensome. In particular, the applicant must not only conduct a patentabilty search before filing the application, but also submit an Examination Support Document (ESD). The ESD must identify where each claim limitation is supported in the specification and describe how each claim is patentable over the closest prior art — including identifying any claim limitations that are disclosed in the prior art. As …

Katy Perry’s left shark

Posted in Copyright, Intellectual Property

By now, you probably have heard of the infamous “left shark” in Katy Perry’s Super Bowl XLIX halftime show, who went off script and did its own moves during “Teenage Dreams” and “California Gurls.”

So much buzz built about the shark that a 3D printing service, Shapeways, starting offering Left Shark models online, which prompted a letter from Perry’s attorneys insisting that the service stop sales immediately, claiming that the shark character was protected by copyright.

Shapeways sent a response stating that it did not appear that Perry owned the copyright for Left Shark (because a copyright is owned by the “author,” in this case the costume designer, and she did not design the costume), and that she had no basis because courts have held that costumes are useful articles and, thus, ineligible for copyright protection.

But wait! Though a costume may be classified as a useful article, courts also have held that design elements that are separate from the function of “clothing” are eligible for copyright. In fact, the U.S. Copyright Office lists a registration for “Shark costume; Children’s shark costume” (VA0000624682) owned by the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis.

Whether Perry does, in fact, own the copyright is yet to be determined, but this exchange is a lesson for business owners who send cease-and-desist letters without thinking about the consequences. In the past few days, the Internet has spiked with anti-Perry comments, and the model has been downloaded more than 11,000 times. Probably not the result Perry desired.…

The saga of strict de novo review of patent claim construction comes to an end — U.S. Supreme Court tweaks the standard of appellate review

Posted in Intellectual Property, Patents

As we reported last year, one of the issues that has divided the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (the CAFC) for nearly 20 years is the proper standard of appellate review of patent claim construction rulings. No less than four CAFC en banc decisions addressed the issue. In each instance, the majority applied a strict de novo standard for appellate review with no deference to the trial court even with regard to underlying factual determinations, while vigorous dissents objected to this standard.

The dissenters have been vindicated, as the Supreme Court has now held that a trial court’s underlying factual determinations with respect to extrinsic evidence used in patent claim constructions must be reviewed on appeal under the clearly erroneous standard. This decision should, at least in theory, result in an increase in claim construction affirmances by the CAFC. It remains to be seen, however, whether there will be a significant increase.

Patent claim construction basics1

The scope of a patent is defined by its claims, and construing those claims is the heart and soul of nearly all patent litigation. The meaning of the words and phrases used in the claims  is critical to not only the question of infringement, but also patent validity.

The task of construing the meaning of patent claims is a question of law for the court — not a jury — to decide. Markman v. Westview Instruments, Inc., 517 U.S. 370, 390-91 (1996). Claim terms are given their ordinary and customary …

Life sciences patent subject matter eligibility — two steps forward, one step back

Posted in Intellectual Property, Patents

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) released its revised Interim Guidance on Patent Subject Matter Eligibility under 35 U.S.C. 101 on Dec. 16, 2014. For the life sciences industry, the revised guidance provides significant relief from the previous guidance released March 4, 2014. However, just one day later, the joy that many life science patent practitioners felt from the revised guidance was tempered when the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit affirmed a district court’s holding of invalidity of several patent claims of Myriad Genetics based on patent subject matter ineligibility.

The good news

The revised guidance still employs a three-step analysis to determine subject matter eligibility, but has several notable changes. The first step of the analysis still questions if the claim is to a process, machine, manufacture or composition of matter as required by Section 101. However, the second step of the analysis questions if the claim is “directed to” a judicial exception, rather than the previous “involving” a judicial exception. As an example, the revised guidance notes that process claims that merely use a nature-based product are not necessarily subject to the analysis. Additionally, all claims — i.e., both products and processes — are subject to the same analysis.

Further, if a claim is identified as directed to a “product of nature” exception, the analysis compares the nature-based product to its naturally occurring counterpart to identify “markedly different” characteristics based on structure, function or properties. Only if there is no markedly different characteristic does the …

Supreme Court charts clear course for trademark tacking determination

Posted in Intellectual Property, Trademarks

The U.S. Supreme Court created some wake by issuing their first substantive trademark ruling in more than a decade this week. The Supreme Court decided to hear a case on appeal from the Ninth Circuit’s decision in Hana Fin., Inc. v. Hana Bank, 735 F.3d 1158 (9th Cir. 2013) cert granted, 134 S. Ct. 2842 (2014).

Of significant importance to the case is the trademark doctrine of tacking, which allows a trademark owner to make slight modifications of a trademark over time while maintaining the original first-use priority date. The doctrine holds that the original mark and the later, slightly altered, mark may be tacked when they are considered to be “legal equivalents” that “create the same, continuing commercial impression.” Van Dyne-Crotty, Inc. v. Wear-Guard Corp., 926 F.2d 1156, 1159 (Fed. Cir. 1991).

The issue addressed by the Supreme Court is whether a judge or a jury should determine whether tacking is available — that is, whether the original and revised marks are legal equivalents — in a given case.…

gTLD update: ’Tis the season for new gTLDs

Posted in gTLDs, Intellectual Property, Trademarks

ICANN has been making a final push this December after a couple sluggish months and has delegated 40 gTLDs since our last gTLD update. Those newly delegated gTLDs are:

  • .docs
  • .tires
  • .dev
  • .schwarz
  • .iwc
  • .osaka
  • .sew
  • .garden
  • .lidl
  • .doosan
  • .sky
  • .cartier
  • .samsung
  • .商店 (shop)
  • .adult
  • .porn
  • .trust
  • .eurovision
  • .fashion
  • .latrobe
  • .irish
  • .网店 (webstore)
  • .aquarelle
  • .memorial
  • .legal
  • .money
  • .coach
  • .everbank
  • .谷歌 (Google)
  • .madrid
  • .firmdale
  • .グーグル (Google)
  • .mormon
  • .lds
  • .party
  • .八卦 (gossip)
  • .cricket
  • .science
  • .reit
  • .android

Though ICANN has picked up the pace, there are only a small number of gTLDs about to enter or in the sunrise phase this month.…

Changes are coming for trademark registration holders in Canada

Posted in Intellectual Property, Trademarks

In late 2015 or early 2016, significant changes will occur in Canada under the Canadian Trade-Marks Act. Entities holding a Canadian trademark registration that has a renewal date close to this time period will face issues regarding the renewal term period and potential fee increases.

Under the current provisions of the Canadian Trade-Marks Act, registrations are valid for a period for 15 years. The Canadian Trademark Office has indicated that registrations having a renewal date before the change will renew for a period of 15 years. Registrations with a renewal date after the change will have 10-year terms. In that the exact date of the change is not yet known, any Canadian trademark registration having a renewal date from about September 2015 to about April 2016 could have either a 15-year or 10-year renewal period, depending on when the change is enacted.…

Supreme Court decision likely to affect TTAB proceedings

Posted in Intellectual Property, Trademarks

Early in December 2014, the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments in B&B Hardware, Inc. v. Hargis Industries, Inc. At issue are inconsistencies by the 12 regional federal courts appeal in giving preclusive effect in trademark infringement cases to a denial by the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board (TTAB) of an application to register a trademark in an opposition action. Issue preclusion prevents a party to a lawsuit from re-litigating an issue once it has been decided in a previous case where the party was given a full and fair opportunity to litigate the issue. The issue here is “likelihood of confusion.”

B&B owns a U.S. registration for the trademark SEALTIGHT. When Hargis applied to register SEALTITE, B&B opposed the registration. The TTAB held for B&B. B&B then sued Hargis in district court, alleging trademark infringement. The district court found that the TTAB’s ruling for B&B did not have preclusive effect on the district court case. B&B appealed to the Eighth Circuit. The Eight Circuit held that the TTAB and the district court used different tests to reach their findings of a likelihood of confusion, so refused to apply issue preclusion. B&B appealed to the Supreme Court.…

Sony Data Hack: “You Can’t Lose What You Ain’t Never Had”

Posted in Copyright, Information Technology, Intellectual Property, Privacy, Trademarks

Back in the 1960’s, legendary bluesman Muddy Waters wrote a song called “You Can’t Lose What You Ain’t Never Had.”

Now, it is Sony Pictures that is singing the blues, as damages continue to mount following the cyber attack on its data networks just before Thanksgiving. A shadowy group with possible connections to the North Korean government has claimed responsibility for the hack, which, to date, has resulted in exposure of Sony intellectual property (e.g., movie scripts), trade secrets (e.g., film budgets), employee personal information (e.g., employee and former employee home addresses and social security numbers) and other sensitive information (e.g., actor travel aliases and phone numbers).

I’m no cybersecurity expert, but I’m at the point where I seriously doubt any currently available data security technology is totally hack-proof. Who knows, there may have been precious little that Sony could have done to prevent the loss of its intellectual property and trade secret information to determined hackers. Let’s face it, some of the most highly sophisticated corporations and government agencies have been victimized by cyber attacks in the last year. But the same really can’t be said for their employee data.…

FTC’s focus on “patent trolls” not limited to competition concerns

Posted in Patents

The FTC sent a message to “patent trolls” earlier this month, though how well that message will resonate remains to be seen. On Nov. 6, the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection concluded its investigation into MPHJ Technology Investments, LLC’s practices involving its so-called “inquiry letters” by agreeing to accept a consent order. The consent order addresses two sets of misrepresentations contained in various letters that MPHJ sent to alleged infringers of MPHJ patents. First, the FTC found that MPHJ misrepresented that they had sold a substantial number of licenses within a certain price range; second, they misrepresented that they intended to initiate a lawsuit if they did not receive a response from the letters’ addressees.

The FTC outlines in its complaint how MPHJ and Farney Daniels, P.C., MPHJ’s attorneys, engaged in a three-stage campaign to promote and sell licenses for then-recently purchased patents. Farney Daniels and MPHJ had signed a written agreement splitting the proceeds of the letter campaign. In the first stage, they sent approximately 16,465 letters to small businesses (between 20 and 99 employees) that did business in veterinary services, lawn and garden services, building maintenance services or medical laboratories. The letters informed each business that it was likely infringing patents by using common office equipment. Next, they sent a second wave of letters to most of those same businesses, once again informing them of their likely infringement, but this time also offering to license the patent. The letter stated that MPHJ needed to hear back within two …

Breaking down new gTLDs by the numbers

Posted in Domain Names, gTLDs, Intellectual Property, Trademarks

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Numbers and Names continues to be sluggish in delegating new gTLDs this month, delegating no new gTLDs since our last post. But ICANN has made a dent this year in the 1,930 gTLD applications submitted, delegating 432 new gTLDs to date. Of those 1,930 applications, 1,157 are proceeding through the new gTLD program and 341 have been withdrawn.

Are new gTLDs selling?

More than 3 million second-level domains have been purchased in new TLDs, but of those 3 million, nearly two-thirds are parked domains, i.e., registered internet domain names which are not associated with any services. A total of 62,666 new second-level domain registrations were purchased within the last week, at an average of nearly 9,000 a day.

Top 10 gTLDs in terms of registrations:

Rank

New domain

No. of registrations

1

.xyz

700,817

2

.berlin

153,170

3

.club

131,418

4

.realtor

84,621

5

.wang (net)

82,837

6

.guru

75,460

7

.nyc

55,905

8

.oyc

54,387

9

.london

48,852

10

.photography

47, 766

gTLD update: Are ICANN and the gTLD program suffering from jetlag?

Posted in gTLDs, Intellectual Property, Trademarks

ICANN has given 34 gTLDs the green light to launch since our last gTLD update. Only 14 new gTLDs were launched in the month of October, and only 21 were delegated in total for the month of September. These numbers are strikingly low compared with the rapid-fire delegation the Internet community witnessed through the summer. The following list represents the small batch of gTLDs that have been delegated by ICANN since Sept. 15, 2014:

  • .sydney
  • .bloomberg
  • .energy
  • .delivery
  • .taipei
  • .emerck
  • .band
  • .yoga
  • .crs
  • .abogado
  • .rip
  • .wedding
  • .poker
  • .alspace
  • .allfinanz
  • .ibm
  • .forsale
  • .vermögensberatung (financial advice)
  • .vermögensberater (financial advisor)
  • .pyc (Russian)
  • .tui
  • .dvag
  • .pohl
  • .work
  • .casa
  • .budapest
  • .world
  • .fly
  • .nexus
  • .channel
  • .prof
  • .gle
  • .zip
  • .cal
  • .chrome

This sluggish behavior also is demonstrated with the small number of gTLDs currently entering or in the sunrise phase this month.

These gTLDs are in the queue for launching:…

‘Patent troll’ cannot “derail” FTC investigation

Posted in Patents

Have to give them an “A” for effort. “Patent troll” MPHJ Technology Investments, LLC sued the FTC hoping to shut down its investigation into the company because the investigation violated MPHJ’s First Amendment rights to petition. A West Texas federal judge recently ruled that MPHJ could not “derail” the FTC investigation with such a claim.

MPHJ, which had bought a number of patents related to computer scanning programs, mailed demand letters in an effort to license its patents to various companies that were already using similar technology. But MPHJ didn’t stop there. Many of the letters also threatened to sue those same companies if they didn’t sign license agreements and pay MPHJ’s demanded licensing fees. Those inquiry letters landed MPHJ in hot water with the attorneys general of various states, including Vermont and Nebraska—and with the FTC. Specifically, the FTC is investigating whether the inquiry letters violated Section 5 of the FTC Act. The FTC has already offered to settle the matter with MPHJ via a consent judgment, but MPHJ rejected the offer, leaving the investigation open and pending. Indeed, the Commissioners have yet to make a final decision about bringing any enforcement action at all, which would be accomplished by a majority vote.…

Grab your passport; geographic gTLDs are jetsetting this month

Posted in gTLDs, Intellectual Property, Trademarks

Twenty-three new gTLDs have been delegated since our last post. The following gTLDs have been cleared for takeoff:

  • .network
  • .企业 (Chinese for “enterprise”)
  • .business
  • .otsuka
  • .gbiz
  • .gmail
  • .pizza
  • .immo
  • .esq
  • .prod
  • .here
  • .youtube
  • .meme
  • .eat
  • .rsvp
  • .mov
  • .new
  • .ing
  • .frl
  • .day
  • .dad
  • .boo
  • .gmx
  • .pharmacy
  • .wme

Delegation is the green light for new gTLDs to launch into their respective mandatory sunrise period before moving on to landrush, early access and their final destination: general availability.…

Coinye West will not take over bitcoin’s reign on cryptocurrency

Posted in Information Technology, Intellectual Property, Trademarks

There’s exciting news in the world of cryptocurrency, the exchange medium that uses cryptography to secure the transactions and control the creation of new units. Bitcoin, created in 2009, was the first cryptocurrency and remains the most popular, though numerous other cryptocurrencies, such as Coinye, have emerged in the interim.

Where can you find cryptocurrency? Certainly not at your local bank.

Cryptocurrency is essentially digital money, a virtual medium of exchange that is not issued, backed, or tied to any particular nation or government. Cryptocurrency derives value through a variety of ways, such as buying either from exchanges, or directly from other people selling them, or try your hand at mining, which requires software you download to your computer.

After obtaining cryptocurrency, such as a bitcoin, the next hurdle is finding someone who will accept the currency in exchange for goods and services — which isn’t as difficult as you might think. Analysts estimate that over 65,000 bitcoin transactions occur every day through electronic transactions. What types of goods and services are exchanged, you may ask? Almost anything from the mundane products, such as electronics or dog apparel, to swanky cocktails or a Tesla, or to the illegal, including drugs and guns. Because purchases occur online through user’s virtual wallets, purchasers can remain anonymous and law enforcement can’t freeze their accounts.

Back to school – time to get educated about the newest gTLDs

Posted in Domain Names, gTLDs, Intellectual Property, Trademarks

Ready for the first day of sunrise

ICANN continues to make big strides in widening the Internet playing field. To date, ICANN has invited 1,159 new gTLDs to contract, and of those 1,159 invited, 495 registry agreements have been signed. From the 495 applicants who have signed a registry agreement, ICANN has delegated 357 new gTLDs to the root zone including the newest 20 that have been delegated since our last post. The newly delegated gTLDs are:

  • .tatar
  • .wales
  • .gifts
  • .sarl
  • .cymru
  • .restaurant
  • .bnpparibas
  • .佛山 (Chinese city of Foshian)
  • .广东 (Chinese province of “Guangdong)
  • .sca
  • .caravan
  • .cern
  • .ltda
  • .property
  • .hosting
  • .help
  • .uol
  • .ooo
  • .how
  • .diet
  • .click

Ready. Set. Go. FTC patent troll study cleared for takeoff

Posted in Intellectual Property, Patents

Last week, the White House’s Office of Management and Budget approved the FTC’s request to study how patent assertion entities (PAEs or, less charitably, patent trolls) operate and to what extent they affect competition and innovation. The study was originally proposed in September 2013 and modified this past May in response to public comment.

As we described previously in a two-part series of articles (read part 1 and part 2), the study will be conducted in two segments and is designed to answer the following questions:

  • How do PAEs organize their corporate legal structure, including parents, subsidiaries, and affiliates?
  • What types of patents do PAEs hold and how do they organize their holdings?
  • How do PAEs acquire patents; who are the prior patent owners; and how do they compensate prior patent owners?
  • How do PAEs engage in assertion activity (i.e., how do they behave with respect to demands, litigation, and licensing)?
  • What does assertion activity cost PAEs?
  • What do PAEs earn through assertion activity?
  • How does PAE patent assertion behavior compare to that of other entities that assert patents?

A new Ohio weapon against patent trolls?

Posted in Intellectual Property, Patents

Ohio may become the next state — after Virginia, Georgia, and thirteen other states — to take on the fight against patent trolls. A bill pending in Ohio’s General Assembly, H.B. 573, would provide additional tools to thwart abusive tactics by patent trolls. But how useful those tools may prove in the battle against the problems they are intended to remedy is yet to be seen.

“Patent troll” is a pejorative term without a well-defined meaning. It is widely used to describe an entity that does not make or sell any products or services, but acquires patents from others and then seeks to exact licensing fees through abusive tactics, including meritless assertions of patent infringement. Because defending against patent infringement claims can be an expensive endeavor, those targeted by meritless lawsuits often opt to pay patent trolls’ relatively low demands rather than aggressively defend against the claims in court. It is a decision that can leave business leaders steaming because, in their view, their companies are essentially being subjected to a shake-down by the threat of a meritless lawsuit.

In addition to frustrating business leaders, abusive practices in enforcing patents can stymie the economy. When companies are forced to settle meritless claims of infringement, they have less to spend on payroll, research and development, and other expenses that add value to the company and make it more likely to contribute to a thriving economy. Thus, patent trolls (as defined above) harm their targets, but they also negatively impact society more …