July 15, 2013

Patent trolls threatening Connecticut businesses

Patent trolls are nameless, faceless entities that stifle innovation and progress. They don't manufacture or sell any products, but serve exclusively to file lawsuits. Many companies, including local supermarkets, can't afford the lawsuits and sometimes end up shutting their doors for good or settling to avoid paying legal fees.

The money spent in the courtroom would otherwise be used toward innovation and keeping Connecticut's food prices low. Patent trolls are taking money right out of consumers' pockets.

Establishments that offer free Wi-Fi to their patrons, use QR codes, or have features on their website like a store locator or online menu are all targets.

When a patent troll finds a business using a widely adopted technology or practice that has a vague resemblance to one of their patents, they'll first ask for an exorbitant “licensing fee.” These fees can range from the tens of thousands into the hundreds of thousands of dollars. Main Street store owners with limited options are taken to court and spend money they can't afford to lose, defending their right to that practice.

Over the past two years patent trolls have become such a burden that on June 4th, President Obama issued an executive order to “protect innovators from frivolous litigation.”

It asks that patent holders be more specific about how their patent is being infringed. The order was supplemented by Sens. Chuck Schumer, (D-New York), and John Cornyn, (R-Texas), and Reps. Peter DeFazio, (D-Oregon), Jason Chaffetz, (R-Utah), and Ted Deutch, (D-Florida), who have introduced legislation to stamp out these patent trolls.

Connecticut businesses cannot thrive under constant threat of litigation, and until these flaws are fixed in the patent system, economic growth will be stymied. Keep Connecticut innovative — contact your Congressmen to protect our state's industry.

Stan Sorkin is the president of the Connecticut Food Association.

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