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    Industry Groups Join Ad Campaign Against Patent Trolls

    NRF, FMI among those urging Congress to end abusive practices

    The National Retail Federation (NRF) and the Food Marketing Institute (FMI) have joined the Internet Association (IA) and the National Restaurant Association (NRA) on a print and radio advertising campaign in targeted states and districts across the United States, urging Congress to end patent abuse and shield American businesses from patent trolls.

    The campaign asks voters in multiple states, among them Illinois, Iowa, Nevada, Ohio, Texas, Vermont and Virginia, to request that their Congress members take immediate action to “stop bad patents and stop the trolls.”

    “The intentional misuse of the patent system by patent trolls not only crowds our courts with unnecessary lawsuits, but also hampers retailers’ adoption of technology aimed at improving the customer experience,” explained Matthew Shay, president and CEO of Washington, D.C.-based NRF. “Retailers are among the most frequent targets of patent trolls due to the industry’s use of cutting-edge innovations. NRF’s strong position on patent trolls and support for this association-led campaign demonstrates our industry’s commitment to addressing this issue.”

    “Supermarkets are increasingly the targets of patent trolls,” added Erik Lieberman, regulatory counsel at Arlington, Va.-based FMI. “In recent months retailers have been sent demand letters or sued for using widely adopted technology, such as store-locater functions and QR codes. The activities of trolls pose an unfair and unnecessary barrier to entrepreneurship, making it harder for retailers to operate their businesses and communicate with customers. Congress must act to address these abuses.”

    Patent trolls are draining the economy of $80 billion annually, according to the trade groups, which note that victims have even included charities.

    Washington has begun to take notice, however, led by Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) and Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.). Congress is working to deter abusive patent litigation, and the White House has issued a set of legislative proposals as well as executive actions to address the issue. The trade organizations expressed the hope that “bipartisan support to address abusive patent troll legislation will provide some relief to American innovators and entrepreneurs.”

    Recent developments on the patent troll issue include a July letter signed by 50 organizations calling for Congress to stop patent abuse, another letter the same month from a group of more than 40 companies from a range of sectors urging Congress to make it easier to challenge low-quality patents, and an August report from the General Accounting Office (GAO) that confirmed patent abuse has a costly impact on U.S. businesses and the economy.

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