In a round of good news, the United States Patent and Trademark Office. See also PTO. has published a notice that it will be holding a roundtable on January 11, 2013 to look into regulations to “require greater public transparency concerning the ownership of patent applications and patents.” The deadline for requesting to participate in the roundtable is December 21, 2012, and the deadline for submitting written comments is January 25, 2013. In a good article by Nate Raymond at Reuters, he explains the notice and goes over the implications it would have on some of the worst patent trolls. Specifically, Intellectual Ventures and Acacia Research often use shell holding companies to hold patents, making it highly complicated to figure out who actually owns a patent.
This is a positive development and we hope the United States Patent and Trademark Office. See also PTO. will create this needed transparency. Transparency in patent ownership will allow companies to have a better understanding of exactly who is suing them, whom they would need a licensing fee from and the motivations of the party sitting across the table. For companies doing searches to see if they are violating a patent, it will enable them to know whom they have to talk to if they find a troublesome patent.
It would also make it tougher for trolls to use complicated corporate structures to try and hide potential liabilities resulting from their actions. Additionally, it would help U.S. competition authorities, including the Federal Trade Commission and Department of Justice, have a better understanding of the impact trolls are having on marketplace competition. Basically, it would make the business of being a An entity in the business of being infringed — by analogy to the mythological troll that exacted payments from the unwary. Cf. NPE, PAE, PME. See Reitzig and Henkel, Patent Trolls, the Sustainability of ‘Locking-in-to-Extort’ Strategies, and Implications for Innovating Firms. slightly tougher, and that is a good thing.