In the beginning of January, reports suggested that a patent licensing firm, Brandywine Communications Technologies, sued over 39 ISPs for certain echo cancellation and pre-distortion technology integrated into DSL equipment. NTCA reported that, as of January 7th, its members had received letters, but no lawsuits. Based on a report to Viodi, it sounds like the letters continue to be sent to ISPs. Jill Canfield of NTCA had sage advice when she suggested contacting her, if you receive a letter.
This hearkens back to the days when Acacia Research Corporation was sending ISPs letters regarding patent infringement for allowing streaming. To simplify their life, they filed a class action suit against all providers who had a 2257 statement (adult web sites). Dan Rayburn suggested multiple ways to combat these so-called patent trolls in this article penned several years ago.
Viodi’s survey last week of 500+ people who work for operators suggest that most (>80%) still have not received letters from Brandywine Communications Technologies. Still, it seems like a matter of time before letters are sent to anyone that may have purchased equipment with technology that Brandywine considers covered by their patents.
In an unrelated, but possibly significant action, Vercury CTO, Jun Zhang has just created a petition on White House.gov to urge Congress to pass and the White House to sign the Saving High-tech Innovators from Egregious Legal Disputes (SHIELD) Act introduced by Congressman Peter DeFazio (D-OR) and co-sponsored by Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) to protect American tech companies from frivolous patent lawsuits. Zhang reports on the Linkedin Media Fingerprinting group that his company has just been hit with a lawsuit from what he describes as a patent troll and he is concerned legal costs could reach a million dollars.
The petition needs 100,000 signatures by Feb 27th to assure that the White House will review and respond.
One commentator in the aforementioned Linkedin Media Fingerprinting group makes good points about the nuances of Intellectual Property protection and about being careful for what you pray for, as the political cure could be worse than the disease. Any sort of political solution will take time to weave its way through the labyrinth that is Washington, D.C. and probably will not represent any relief for those who with existing patent infringement suits.
Still, this is dialogue that should be had and, fundamentally, should set a baseline for what should qualify as patent-worthy in a world where information and ideas travel at the speed of the social Internet.