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By Jeff Gale
Patent trolls, also known as non-practicing entities, orNPEs, are extorting businesses of all sizes and industries in our state andnation, and are significantly hampering economic growth for their own gain.
I am encouraged by the growing Congressional awareness ofpatent troll abuses, evidenced by the slew of recently proposed legislativesolutions at both the state and federal levels. However, it is critical that legislators in our statecontinue to work to address an urgent economic need: finding bipartisansolutions to stop the patent troll business model from stifling innovation, jobgrowth, and competition.
Patent trolls leverage ownership of low-quality patents,along with shortcomings in outdated legislation, to generate significantfinancial gains by demanding unreasonable settlement or licensing fees, andthreatening expensive and time-consuming patent infringement lawsuits.
Currently,businesses do not have a permanent, affordable, and efficient mechanism tochallenge the validity of the patents in question, and as a result they suffera significant loss of time and financial resources even if no legitimate patentinfringement has occurred.
Further,when a company prevails in defending itself against a patent troll's frivolouslawsuit, it has no legal recourse against the attacker; it cannot even recoupthe often substantial legal fees it was forced to incur just to defend itself.This shortcoming in existing patent legislation provides no deterrent to patenttrolls, which offer none of the innovation or job creation offered bylegitimate, operating companies.
Technologycompanies like TicketBiscuit are especially vulnerable targets for trolls, since manyexisting technology patents are not written specifically enough todifferentiate between the intricate details of two similar technologies. As aresult, falling victim to a frivolous patent infringement lawsuit is anexpensive proposition, regardless of whether a settlement strategy or defensestrategy is pursued.
This issue is widespreadand clearly requires an urgent solution. Technologycompanies are not the only businesses to fall prey to patent trolls. Other moretraditional types of businesses like restaurants, grocers, and bankers are alsofrequently caught in the crosshairs. The patent system must be reformed to stoppatent troll abuse and to provide a permanent resource for businesses tochallenge expensive and meritless legal distractions.
(Jeff Gale is chief executive officer of Birmingham-based TicketBiscuit, a national provider of web-based ticket sales management systems.)
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