US looks at patent law again
WASHINGTON: Even as they battle in courts over smartphone and video technology, Microsoft and Google have discovered a common foe: patent owners who sue their customers or hound an industry.
Both companies are seeking to curb the litigation practices of firms that buy patents with the sole purpose of demanding royalties from as many end-users as they can – even if it means suing a pizza parlour or an NGO. Anger has united retailers, finance companies, public-transit operators and hotels, and even caught the attention of US President Barack Obama, who last month announced corrective measures.
Focusing on that core issue could create pressure in the US Congress for legislation and action by US courts – as long as companies sidestep the delays that marred the previous effort to change patent law, which took almost a decade.
“Going after bad litigation behaviour is an approach we can all agree on,” said Tim Molino, director of government relations for Washington-based BSA, also known as The Software Alliance, whose members include Microsoft and Oracle.
Google spokesman Matt Kallman referred questions about patent legislation to the Coalition for Patent Fairness, a Washington-based lobbying group backed by Google, Cisco Systems and Intel Corp.
Matt Tanielian, executive director of the coalition, says this is not just about patent law. “It’s about the economy and consumer protection,” he said. – Washington Post