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Thursday, 22 August 2013

Minnesota's AG Isn't so "Minnesota Nice"

Merpel experiences another
thing Minnesota is known for:
Brutally cold winters
This Kat recently returned to her hometown of New York City after spending a couple of years living in Minneapolis, one of the Twin Cities of Minnesota, aka the "Land of 10,000 Lakes", aka the Gopher State.  One thing this Kat learned about Minnesotans is that they embody an attitude of "Minnesota Nice," defined by "a polite friendliness, an aversion to confrontation, a tendency toward understatement, a disinclination to make a fuss or stand out, emotional restraint, and self-deprecation."  ["Doesn't that make them British?" sniffs Merpel.]

However, there is at least one person in Minnesota who is not-so-Minnesota Nice: Lori Swanson, the state's Attorney General.  Ms Swanson has taken a tough stance against unlawful activities carried out by companies perceived as patent trolls, stating, “[p]atent trolls shake down small businesses to pay ‘license fees’ they may not owe to avoid threats of costly litigation.”    

Following hot on the heels of Vermont's Attorney General William H. Sorrell's lawsuit against MPHJ and settlement with Patent & Trademark Agency, LLC, Ms Swanson's office similarly investigated MPHJ's activities in Minnesota to determine whether they violated the state's consumer protection laws.  AG Swanson announced on Tuesday that her office had completed an "Assurance of Discontinuance" settlement agreement with MPHJ.  According to a press release issued by Ms Swanson's office, the settlement requires that "MPHJ Technology must cease its patent enforcement campaign in the State of Minnesota and cannot resume such business activities in Minnesota without the permission of the Attorney General. The settlement also prevents MPHJ Technology from assigning its patents to anyone who does not agree to be bound by these terms." 

This Kat finds it worth noting that, according to AG Swanson, not one Minnesota company that had received a demand letter from MPHJ actually paid the demanded fee.  Perhaps the frequent media assaults against patent trolls and the various pending federal legistlative efforts to curb the effectiveness of patent trolls has created a situation in which potential defendants are less reluctant to fight back instead of settle.

Is this a sign that more state lawmakers will begin to take similar actions against NPEs?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Given that enforcing patents through litigation is a federal matter, any such over-the-top 'anti-Troll' rhetoric is likely to be more than slightly problematic for state AG's.

Instead of fanning the flames of a lynchmob mentality, perhaps articles calling for reason might be a better course.

Just a thought.

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