Patent Trolling

The Vermont Attorney General’s Office has played an active and leading role in the national effort to reduce the cost and burdens of abusive patent enforcement practices, sometimes called “patent trolling.” As the White House recently explained, “in recent years, there has been an explosion of abusive patent litigation designed not to reward innovation and enforce intellectual property, but to threaten companies in order to extract settlements based on questionable claims.”

Taking on Patent Trolls to Protect American Innovation (June 4, 2013).

Patent trolling is a national problem, but it is also a Vermont problem. Vermont businesses and nonprofit organizations have been targeted by patent trolls. Responding to these aggressive and sometimes abusive patent enforcement tactics costs time and money. Patent trolling can also make it harder for small businesses to grow and create new jobs for Vermonters. Attorney General Sorrell has made this issue a priority and taken important steps to protect Vermont businesses, nonprofits, and consumers:

Attorney General Sorrell, his staff, and his colleagues in other states have urged Congress to take action on patent trolling:

  • Attorney General Sorrell’s April 8, 2014 testimony before the US House of Representatives Committee on Energy and Commerce (video)
  • Public Protection Chief Wendy Morgan’s May 22, 2014 testimony before the US House of Representatives Committee on Energy and Commerce (video)
  • March 19, 2014 letter from AG Sorrell to Senators Leahy and Grassley.
  • February 24, 2014 NAAG letter from AG Sorrell and 41 other State Attorneys General to Senate leadership.
  • December 16, 2013 letter from AG Sorrell to Senator Leahy.
  • December 16, 2013 NAAG letter from AG Sorrell and 42 other State Attorneys General to Federal Trade Commission.
  • December 4, 2013 letter from AG Sorrell to Congressman Welch.
  • Attorney General Sorrell was the first state attorney general to file a consumer protection complaint against an alleged patent troll, MPHJ Technology Investments, LLC. MPHJ’s targets in Vermont included two nonprofits that serve developmentally disabled Vermonters. After receiving complaints from these organizations, the Attorney General’s Office investigated and filed suit:

  • Amended Complaint
  • Federal District Court Decision Remanding to State Court
  • The Vermont Legislature, in 2013, led the way in passing a state law directed at patent-related demand letters sent in bad faith. Vermont businesses and attorneys helped educate legislators and the public about the need for this groundbreaking law. A number of states followed Vermont’s lead and passed similar laws in the past year.

    Vermont’s leadership in the fight against patent trolls has received national attention:

  • Rich Steeves, A troll by any other name: Patent reform from the top down, Inside Counsel (Jan. 1, 2014)
  • KSE Focus, Attorneys General Join Legislators in Pushing Patent Trolls Back Under Bridges, Congress.org (March 7, 2014)
  • The Great Patent Troll Debate – Two Perspectives, SRR Journal (Spring 2014)
  • Timothy B. Lee, How Vermont could save the nation from patent trolls, Washington Post (Aug. 1, 2013)
  • Pamela M. Prah, State AGs target patent trolls to protect business, USA Today (Nov. 25, 2013)
  • For more information on patent trolling, check out last year’s White House report on Patent Assertion and U.S. Innovation and the December 2012 Federal Trade Commission’s Patent Assertion Entity Activities Workshop.

    If you want to make a complaint, please contact the Consumer Assistance Program.

    Published: Jul 25, 2014