I recently wrote about the SHIELD Act that was reintroduced by Representatives DeFazio and Chaffetz. The SHIELD Act is directed toward slowing the activity of Non-Practicing Entities (NPEs) by creating a “loser pays” system. The free market has also created a potential solution to the perceived problem. One company in particular, Unified Patents, Inc., has especially piqued my interest.
Unified Patents is a San Francisco-based startup that is attempting to connect the resources available at Fortune 1000 companies with the small companies that are often the target of NPEs. By bringing together the interested parties, large and small, Unified Patents is hoping to lessen the threat of suit by NPEs to their customers by disrupting the NPE business model and strategy.
Unified Patents plans to enlist a number of strategies to deter NPEs from suing their clients. For example, when one customer is approached by an NPE, the firm will warn their other customers and establish a strategy for dealing with the threat. Unified Patents will also ask the Patent & Trademark Office to re-examine patents held by NPEs in an attempt to invalidate the patent before it can be enforced through litigation. Notable companies, like Google and NetApp, have already signed on with Unified Patents.
I am curious in seeing what kind of impact Unified Patents, and other similar firms, will have on NPEs as compared to the SHIELD Act. It seems that both the public and private sectors agree that there is a problem and the solution is making it more expensive for NPEs to do what they do. Assuming the SHIELD Act is passed, this might be a great example of private business and government working together to find a solution to a common problem.
– Suzy Fitzgerald