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Missouri legislators seek to block “patent trolling”

You receive a letter in the mail from a patent attorney that claims to have a patent on a regular business activity, such as scanning a document into a computer.  The letter claims that the writer of the letter holds a patent on that activity and you may be sued for patent infringement.  Or, if you prefer, the writer of the letter may accept a licensing fee and not pursue further legal action.  What do you do?

Many businesses are facing this very dilemma.  Clever patent attorneys have filed for patents on everyday normal office procedures and are sending letters to businesses demanding compensation.  Some businesses pay the fees to avoid potential legal issues.

“This is nothing short of extortion,” said Ray McCarty, president of Associated Industries of Missouri.

Legislation is making its way through Congress to resolve the issue, but many states are beginning to address the issue at a local level through bills such as HB 1374, filed by Representative Stanley Cox.  That bill was heard in a House committee this week.

“We are supportive of the intent of this legislation which is to protect employers from these frivolous and outrageous claims of unscrupulous patent attorneys,” said McCarty. “But we also recognize we must be careful to protect those that have legitimate patents they must protect and are working now to find language that accomplishes both goals.”

No action was taken by the committee on the bill this week.  We will keep you posted of developments in this area.  In the meantime, please share any such letters you receive with us by sending them to rmccarty@aimo.com or by faxing them to Ray McCarty at (573) 634-4406.

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