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FTC will target patent trolls, commissioner says

Grant Gross | Dec. 11, 2014
The U.S. Federal Trade Commission can take action against patent trolls when the patent-holding firms engage in unfair business practices, even as the agency works to complete a study on their business model, a commissioner said.

"There's no need to wait for the completion of [the FTC's] study to act on these and other key legislative patent reform proposals," Brill said. "Various provisions in the bills will most certainly discourage frivolous lawsuits and improve patent quality, actions that I believe are needed now."

In the meantime, the FTC, the U.S. Department of Justice and state attorneys general can move to "stop inappropriate PAE abuse," Brill said.

The FTC, in November, announced a complaint and a settlement with MPHJ Technology Investments, a company that the agency accused of sending more than 9,000 patent licensing demand letters to about 4,800 small businesses between September 2012 and June 2013.

MPHJ had purchased patents for what Brill called "widely used computer scanning equipment," and threatened lawsuits against the small businesses unless they paid a licensing fee. But the company had "no intention to initiate lawsuits," Brill said, and the FTC charged MPHJ with violating a U.S. unfair business practices statute.

The New York Attorney General's Office also reached a settlement with MPHJ, back in January.

 

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