Tech companies join retailers in patent push

Technology companies are joining forces with retail and restaurant advocates for a new lobbying push to urge Congress to crack down on so-called patent trolls. 

The group, United for Patent Reform, includes companies, such as Google, Facebook, Amazon and Verizon, as well as organizations such as the National Retail Federation and the National Restaurant Association. 

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The group has planned lobbying visits, media campaigns and events in lawmakers' home states. 

Republicans are poised to act on patent reform this Congress, after they won control of the Senate in November and increased their majority in the House.

Legislation to rein in so-called patent trolls, who bring frivolous patent infringement lawsuits against companies in the hope of extracting settlements, died in the Senate last year, after Democratic leaders refused to bring it to the floor. Similar legislation passed the House. 

The group cites statistics claiming abusive patent action costs the economy billions of dollars a year. 

Beth Provenzano, a co-chair of the group, said the numerous companies and groups worked together "loosely” last year on patent reform but thought their advocacy could be more efficient as part of a coalition.  

Provenzano said the dynamics are "working in our favor" to get new patent legislation though Congress in the next year. 

President Obama has given a series of technology-focused speeches this week ahead of the State of the Union address on Tuesday, touting new policies on high-speed Internet access and cybersecurity. 

Obama briefly mentioned patent reform in last year's address, and Provenzano said the group expects him to mention reform again next week.