Walmart (NYSE:WMT), Kroger (NYSE:KR), Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN), Macy's (NYSE:M) and a dozen other retailers urged Congress on Tuesday (July 30) to crack down on the "extortive demands" of patent trolls, according to Reuters.
The brick-and-mortar and online retailers joined a total of 44 companies in signing a letter to the top Democrats and Republicans on the Senate and House of Representatives' Judiciary Committees. The companies urged support for bills that would broaden the power of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to review patents and invalidate the ones it determines should not have been granted. Currently the patent office can only give that kind of review to business method and software patents related to financial services. Proposed legislation would expand that authority to include all business method patents.
Retailers have been threatened and in many cases sued for more than a decade over patents for technology that they say should never have been granted. Many of the patents are related to common retail technology including bar codes, gift cards and websites.
In the letter, the companies estimated that litigation over improper patents cost $29 billion in 2011, the most recent figures available.
Bills to expand the patent office's reexamination powers have been introduced in the Senate (by Senator Chuck Schumer of New York) and the House (by California Representatives Darrell Issa and Judy Chu), but so far they have gone nowhere. Backing—and more significantly, lobbying—for the bills by the large retailers who signed the letter might help move the bills along, but they still face partisan legislative infighting. The White House has said it supports measures to curb bad patents and the associated lawsuits.
- See this Reuters story