Attorneys general: FTC, please investigate ‘patent trolls’

December 20, 2013

trollRecently, attorneys general from 43 states sent a letter to the Federal Trade Commission asking it to “investigate patent trolls.”

When I read that, I rolled my eyes. “More people buying into Apple and Co.’s argument about something that doesn’t exist,” I thought.

Then I looked into why the attorneys general sent the letter.

Apparently, the chief impetus was the “silent extortion” that so-called Patent Assertion Entities (or Non-Practicing Entities. Take your pick of euphemisms) can wreck on small businesses.

Small businesses, retailers, and non-profit organizations have been targeted in various states with demands for licensing fees for the use of common, everyday technology such as scanners and Wi-Fi networks,” the National Association of Attorneys General explained.

I generally think of patent trolls as going after cash-flush startups or big companies who’d rather pay them to go away than go to court. I haven’t personally seen any study or report that indicates that patent trolls are targeting mom-and-pop businesses. In fact, I thought they weren’t, because these organizations generally have shallower pockets, making them less appealing as targets.

If I could ever get my hands on some solid evidence that patent trolls are the sinister parasites we’re being lead to believe they are, my feeling might change. To me, saying “they’re targeting small business!” is something of an appeal to emotion, because does commerce venerate any institution more than the hardworking small business owner? (Theoretically, any way.)

I’m still skeptical.