For the half-year to 30 June 2014, the IPKat's regular team is supplemented by contributions from guest bloggers Alberto Bellan, Darren Meale and Nadia Zegze.

Two of our regular Kats are currently on blogging sabbaticals. They are David Brophy and Catherine Lee.

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Vermont AG Elicits Settlement with "Patent and Trademark Agency, LLC"

AG Sorrell looks nice...
Back in May, Vermont's Attorney General William H. Sorrell took a tough stance on a patent troll called MPJH, which Mr Sorrell accused of harassing Vermont residents by threatening them with patent infringement lawsuits that MPJH had not reasonably substantiated.

Now Mr Sorrell again defends his local residents against deceptive practices undertaken by companies leveraging IP rights.  In this instance, the AG's target was a New York-based company called Patent & Trademark Agency, LLC (PTA).  PTA sent letters to numerous businesses, including many located in Vermont, offering to renew their trade marks for a charge of between $985 and $1750.  The PTA fee is substantially higher than the cost of renewing a trade mark directly with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).

The USPTO itself took issue with the actions of PTA, noting that the letters PTA sent to its targets had “a tendency to confuse recipients into thinking [PTA] is a U.S. Government entity.”  Among the confusing aspects of PTA's activities were its use of the letter recipients' official federal trade mark filings on record with the USPTO and a website design that utilized similar layout, fonts and color schemes to that of the USPTO's website.  PTA has since redesigned its website in response to the USPTO objections.  [Notes Merpel, it's good to know that the USPTO defends its own intellectual property, especially to protect businesses from parties acting unscrupulously.]

...but he's on a mission to
crush IP trolls.
AG Sorrell, responding to complaints from Vermont businesses that had received the PTA's letters, argued that the PTA's actions violated the Vermont Consumer Protection Act.  Ultimately, PTA agreed to a settlement under which it would refund all fees paid by Vermont businesses and pay $10,000 to the State of Vermont as a civil penalty and to cover the State's costs in the matter. 

Perhaps other state attorneys general should take notice and ensure that the PTA is no longer sending their local businesses similarly confusing and deceptive letters regarding trade mark renewals. 

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

PTA has nothing in common with the "Troll" phenomenon.

There is no leveraging of IP owned by PTA.

Miri Frankel said...

Dear Anonymous-
Perhaps the wording in that particular sentence was less than ideal, but there is no suggestion that PTA is a troll. The point is that PTA is a company that sought to leverage, for its own benefit, public confusion or fear regarding IP rights and the process and/or expense of protecting those rights. Some trolls use similar tactics, like MPJH, which threatened with unsubstantiable patent infringment suits companies it knew were not likely to have sufficient experience with patents to defend themselves (rather than just pay up).

Andy J said...

On the subject of patent trolls, there was a programme last night on BBC RADIO4 entitled Patently Absurd (available for the next 6 days on iPlayer here for those who can access it) which discussed the subject in a fairly populist way and discussed the proposition that patents now hinder the development of science and the useful arts more than they protect them.

Anonymous said...

Too easily (and incorrectly) the label of "Troll' is tossed around as a dismissive pejorative.

Let's try for some understanding.

Serious series on the myths of trolls at:
http://www.ipwatchdog.com/category/guest-contributors/steve-moore/

Yes, the same Steve Moore who championed the Taffas case.

Subscribe to the IPKat's posts by email here

Just pop your email address into the box and click 'Subscribe':