NRF responds to FTC investigation of patent trolls

The National Retail Federation welcomed today’s announcement that the Federal Trade Commission plans to investigate patent trolls.

“Patent trolls are a drain on the economy,” NRF SVP and general counsel Mallory Duncan said. “It’s time for Washington to put an end to this abuse of our nation’s laws. Seeing this issue receive top-level attention from the FTC is a significant development.”

FTC chair Edith Ramirez announced the investigation, which must be approved by the full commission, during a speech before the American Antitrust Institute and the Computer and Communications Industry Association in Washington. The probe would look into a variety of issues, and results would be available for use by Congress, the courts and federal agencies. 

The move comes just more than two weeks after the White House announced a series of executive actions and legislative recommendations intended to crack down on frivolous lawsuits filed or threatened by patent trolls. At least half a dozen members of Congress have proposed legislation on the issue.

NRF, the Food Marketing Institute and the National Restaurant Association today sent a letter to Ramirez urging the commission to thoroughly examine the issue.

“Valuable resources are being extracted from end users that could be used to invest in business, create jobs and contribute to the growth of the economy, and instead are going to fight or settle frivolous infringement claims,” the letter said.

Patent trolls are firms that buy old, obscure patents from inventors, and then make millions by threatening to sue companies that use the technology involved unless they pay a licensing fee. Retailers are among the most frequent targets thanks to the industry’s increasing use of cutting-edge innovations, especially in online and mobile retailing.