FTC Stops Deceptive Patent Demand Letters

In a move reminiscent of the action taken earlier this year by NY Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman, the Federal Trade Commission last week  announced that MPHJ Technology Investments, LLC, agreed to settle Federal Trade Commission charges that they used deceptive sales claims and phony legal threats in letters that accused thousands of small businesses around the United States of patent infringement. As is typical for FTC settlements, the proposed consent order was published in the Federal Register and public comments have been solicited. The proposed consent order will be subject to public comment for 30 days, continuing through December 8, 2014, after which the Commission will decide whether to make the proposed consent order final. Interested parties can submit written comments electronically or in paper form. Although the FTC will accept these comments, in my experience, when an enforcement settlement has gotten to this stage, we can expect the proposed settlement to become final.

The settlement with MPHJ is the first time the FTC has taken action using its consumer protection authority against a patent assertion entity (PAE). Perhaps most significantly, in the announcement of the settlement, the FTC acknowledged that patents promote innovation, which is a simple enough truth. Still given recent FTC inquiry into the industry, this statement from the Obama Administration could signal that the FTC will take actions only against outliers and not the bulk of the industry, which operates legitimately to enforce valid patents.

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Jay Walker Licensing Program Takes Shape

Jay Walker (left) and Jon Ellenthal (right)

Jay Walker has been in the news over the last several months. But it hasn’t been because of his large patent portfolio, or as the result of his status as the founder of Priceline.com. Instead, it is as the result of a new endeavor he is behind called Patent Properties. But what is Patent Properties?

The company develops and commercializes its own portfolio of assets and is offering a licensing solution for the mass market of patent owners and users. It was formed in September 2013 with the completed merger of GlobalOptions Group, Inc. and Walker Digital Holdings, LLC, which was a wholly owned subsidiary of Walker Digital, LLC. Initially, the newly formed entity consisted of the patent portfolio created by Walker Digital, which included 379 granted patents, 93 pending patent applications, intellectual property in development and 19 litigation matters.

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Technicolor Prepares to Use its 40,000 Patents to Enter the Mobile Patent Wars

Technicolor, the French company that invented the process for color movies, currently holds an estimated 40,000 valuable patents in digital audio and video. Their innovations go back almost a century and have been involved in licensing deals for said innovations for almost sixty years. The longevity of the impact of Technicolor’s visual, audio, and optic patents has somewhat caused them to be taken for granted. Not many can remember a time without Technicolor, but the company is now taking proactive steps to remind us of what it has done, and more importantly, what patents remain active in their arsenal.

As smartphones, tablets, and other electronic devices are igniting international patent litigation over what company is infringing on another company’s technology patent, Technicolor is literally breaking these devices apart. The company has devised a team of 220 employees whose purpose is to take apart every popular electronic device to find possible patent infringements. (more…)

Barney Cassidy on Non-Practicing Entities

Barney J. Cassidy, General Counsel and Executive VP of Tessera, Inc. as well as PLI faculty member, recently had an op-ed article published on Politico.com. The article, entitled, “Shooting a patent straw man,” challenges the notion that patent trolls and their readiness to litigate is at the root behind the recent surge of patent portfolio growth among the major tech companies.

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Facebook Continues to Load Its Patent Arsenal

The patent wars are all the rage amongst tech companies these days. Not too long ago, Microsoft Corp. made news when announcing it purchased approximately 925 patents from AOL, Inc. for an estimated $1.1 billion dollars. The commentary regarding that purchase was equally focused on the impressive sale price for the amount of patents purchased as it was on the fact that tech companies are looking twice at their patent portfolios as litigation and licensing tools.

The latest development is that Facebook, who is currently in a patent infringement battle with Yahoo, recently purchased 650 of the AOL patents from Microsoft for an estimated $550 million dollars. This recent acquisition comes just one month after Facebook purchased 750 patents from IBM. (more…)