Patent trolls: a potential problem for newspapers


Recently introduced legislation will help protect newspapers from patent trolls, according to the Newspaper Association of America.

The Senate Judiciary Committee took action on the practice of patent trolling by introducing the Protecting American Talent and Entrepreneurship Act.

The law would stop abusive patent litigation against newspapers and other businesses and prevent bad actors from undermining the U.S. patent system, according to NAA.

Patent trolls are patent holders who do not practice the copyrighted invention but seek to capitalize on the patent’s value.

A patent troll seeks out ambiguously worded patents being sold at auctions, often by bankrupt companies attempting to liquidate assets.

They then demand payment of licensing fees or threaten infringement litigation.

Due to the high costs associated with abusive litigation, many companies chose to pay the troll to settle the suit, according to the NAA.

In a recent case, a patent plaintiff accused several companies, including newspapers, of infringing on its 1998 Digital Library System patent, the newspaper association said.

The troll accused the companies of infringing on the use of Internet streaming, including “cataloguing, organizing, searching, rating, and provisioning of digital multimedia data.”

Patent trolls can use business-method patents, which can include ways to convert material for the Web, to target newspaper publications expanding to digital platforms.

Due to the vague nature of patents distributed by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, trolls seek out commonplace functionalities performed on a computer or the Internet, such as a search bar or online shopping cart, in order to capitalize on the digital movement.

The Newspaper Association of America, as part of the United Patent Reform coalition, supports provisions in the Protecting American Talent and Entrepreneurship Act that create risks for bad actors, curb abusive demand letters, and increase transparency.