Attorney General Peter F. Kilmartin joined 42 other attorneys general in submitting a letter to the Secretary of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) voicing strong support for the federal agency's proposed nationwide investigation of patent trolls.
Patent trolls typically acquire patents solely for the purpose of using them as weapons to obtain financial gains from entities they claim to have infringed the patent. Consumers, small businesses and non-profit agencies are often targeted because they have purchased or used off-the-shelf commercial products that rely on common, everyday technology. These products include printers, scanners or wireless routers.
"Targets of patent trolls usually possess little knowledge of patent law and may be intimidated into paying a fee to make the alleged infringement disappear; a kind of silent extortion" said Attorney General Kilmartin. "The FTC needs substantially more information about patent troll business models and business practices to determine what industry regulation should be considered to protect consumers from frivolous lawsuit threats."
In early October, the FTC announced its plan to conduct a wide-ranging investigation of known patent trolls, also known as patent assertion entities. The proposed investigation would arm consumer protection authorities with valuable intelligence as they escalate actions against abusers of the patent system.
Recently, a number of states have taken action against patent trolls whose activities run afoul of state consumer protection and unfair trade practice laws. Although much has been discovered through investigation of specific patent troll entities, the business structure and operating methods of other such entities remain unclear.