Business Workshop: Feds Look to Improve IP Enforcement

The federal government recently announced strategies to improve enforcement of intellectual property laws.  The Obama administration wants to increase online enforcement and reduce the number of frivolous patent cases that are currently burdening the courts.

The White House plan to improve online IP enforcement, known as the 2013 Strategic Plan on Intellectual Property Enforcement, calls for voluntary — rather than governmental — enforcement of IP rights through private partnerships among companies with a stake in protecting IP rights, such as search engines, Internet service providers, copyright holders and advertising networks.

The White House strategy focuses on supporting the development of new technologies that enable consumers to legally access protected material. The plan hinges on the premise that consumers, when given the choice, will choose legitimate means of obtaining movies, books, branded merchandise and music over illegal methods.

Meanwhile, the Federal Trade Commission has announced that it is launching a massive investigation of companies that are viewed by some as being overly aggressive in enforcing IP rights, particularly patents.

The investigation targets patent assertion companies, sometimes known as “patent trolls” or non-practicing businesses, which operate by accumulating patents, usually related to technology, for the sole reason of filing lawsuits against other companies that may infringe on those patents. Many businesses choose to settle rather than litigate over patent rights.

The FTC’s investigation aims to reduce unnecessary litigation and increase the transparency of patent holders. These two new government initiatives present interesting news to companies that want to exercise and protect their intellectual property. The Internet, in particular, has been rife with IP abuse, and both the White House and FTC programs focus their efforts on protecting online patent rights.

For more information on this topic, please contact David G. Oberdick at [email protected].

This article originally appeared in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s Business Workshop section. Business Workshop is a weekly feature from local experts offering tidbits on matters affecting business. Read more: