The National Cable and Telecommunications Association has joined with the Computer and Communications Industry Association and more than four dozen other groups to ask House and Senate leaders on both sides of the aisle to crack down on so-called patent trolls.
In a letter to the Senate majority and minority leader and the speaker and minority leader of the House, the groups called on Congress to curb the legal abuses of parties that file "frivolous patent suits" that are gaming the system with serious consequences for the U.S. economy.
"We seek reforms to the current system that would significantly curb trolls' [formally 'patent assertion entities'] ability to extort settlement demands from retailers, technology companies, small businesses, financial services institutions, state and local government entities, and many others who are today the targets of their outrageous claims."
Using figures from a recent White House report, they said that patent troll activity has quadrupled since 2005, costing the economy $80 billion in 2011 alone.
They point out that Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and Robert Goodlatte (R-Va.), chair of the House Judiciary Committee, are both taking up the issue of comprehensive legislation, but they are looking for strong support from leadership as well.
There is a growing consensus that now is the time to address this issue," they said. That consensus has been much in evidence inside the Beltway the past few months.
In May, the House Small Business Committee held a hearing on the impact of patent trolls on small businesses. In their letter, the groups point out that the trolls are increasingly targeting small and mid-sized businesses, and not just tech firms.
The president also issued an executive order last month outlining steps to try to curb frivolous patent suits. Those included requiring patent applicants to identify the ultimate corporate owner (real party in interest) of a patent and asking Congress to come up with legislation.
On the Hill, Sen. Amy Klobuchar has called for more action on stemming abuses. "From the Post-it Note to the Pacemaker, intellectual property is critical to the success of businesses in Minnesota and across the country," she said in a statement last month. "But too many bad actors are bringing up frivolous patent claims, creating a drag on innovation for companies of all sizes. I will continue to fight to improve our patent system and ensure that it is used to promote innovation and protect intellectual property."
Reps. Blake Farenthold (R-Texas) and Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) last week introduced the Patent Litigation and Innovation Act, which CEA says would "allow legitimate companies to protect their patents, while discouraging abusive litigation."