Accused 'patent troll' Intellectual Ventures ramps up lobbying

Intellectual Ventures, which has been accused of being the world's biggest "patent troll," has ramped up its lobbying as Congress works on legislation to curb abusive patent lawsuits. 

The firm spent $310,000 on lobbying in the third quarter of the year, according to public disclosures forms. That figure includes $75,000 the firm spent on an outside firm, Ricchetti Incorporated. In the previous quarter, the firm spent only $165,000 in total on two outside firms.   

Russ Merbeth, the former vice president of government affairs for Cricket Wireless, is the company's internal lobbyist. He did not respond to a request to comment. 

ADVERTISEMENT
Intellectual Ventures, one of the top patent owners in the country, makes few of its own products. Instead, it requires that other companies pay fees to license its patents and sues companies that it claims are using its intellectual property without permission.

The company argues that it increases the value of innovation by buying and defending patents. 

But numerous business groups have complained that they are facing an onslaught of frivolous patent infringement lawsuits or threats from Intellectual Ventures and other firms. Many companies agree to settle out of court because the cost of fighting a patent suit is so high. 

The Obama administration and senior members of Congress have taken steps in recent months to combat what they view as abusive patent litigation. President Obama signed a set of executive actions in February, and the Federal Trade Commission has launched an investigation.

Several lawmakers have introduced bills to combat the problem. A draft bill from House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) would limit the kinds of documents that firms could force their opponents to produce during the discovery phase of a trial, a major cost in patent litigation. The measure would allow the manufacturer of a product to intervene to block cases against its customers over alleged patent infringement and would make a series of changes to the Patent and Trademark Office aimed at helping small businesses participate in the office's decisions. 

Google, Facebook, Netflix, eBay, Verizon and numerous other companies, including retail businesses like Safeway, sent a letter to the leaders of the House and Senate Judiciary Committees last week, endorsing several proposals for curbing patent litigation. 

—Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated Intellectual Venture's lobbying total

More in Overnight Technology

OVERNIGHT TECH: Patent pick heads to Senate panel

Read more »