FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: May 1, 2017
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New Documentary “The Patent Scam” Explores How Patent Trolls Inflict Harm on Small Businesses and Their Struggle to Fight Back
Movie screening on Capitol Hill features director and real victims of patent litigation abuse
WASHINGTON — Today, Engine hosted Austin Meyer, the director of the new documentary “The Patent Scam,” at the Capitol Hill Visitor Center. The screening and subsequent discussion with real victims of patent litigation abuse demonstrated the extent that the U.S. patent system is failing to protect small businesses and startups from patent trolls.
“Loopholes in our patent system result directly in patent troll abuse, which ultimately stifles innovation,” said Julie Samuels, president of Engine’s Board. “When many small businesses and startups come up with new, creative ideas, they find themselves worrying whether they should risk attracting a meritless patent claim. That mindset means that everyone misses out.”
“The Patent Scam” highlights the many challenges frivolous patent litigation poses for business owners and entrepreneurs, juxtaposing their stories of struggle against interviews with lawyers and patent trolls who are benefiting from these loopholes in our patent system. Non-practicing entities (NPEs) buy up vague, low quality patents—many of which should never have been granted in the first place—to claim ownership of commonly-used ideas or business methods such as searching for something using a computer. NPEs, also known as “patent trolls,” use these patents to threaten litigation against businesses, particularly small and medium sized businesses they know will not have the funding to endure a lengthy legal battle. Ultimately, the film asks Congress to act to protect America’s entrepreneurs from this drain on innovation.
“For me, this film is a way to raise the voices of business owners and entrepreneurs in various industries who have been harmed by patent trolls,” explains Austin Meyer, the film’s director. “The people in this film come from across the country and have contributed in different ways to innovation. However, they all have experienced the same threat to their ability to succeed: patent trolls.”
Meyer was inspired to create the film after facing a patent troll himself. An entrepreneur and pilot, Meyer created a flight simulator app to help pilots practice flying. He was shocked to find out he was sued by a patent troll, not for the technology he employed, but for making the app available to search on the Android store. Meyer quickly found out that he was not alone in the fight against patent trolls.
Michael Skelps, the founder of a small photography business in Connecticut, spoke at the film screening and wants Congress to understand the economic impact patent trolls are having on small businesses like his. Skelps’ company Capstone Photography was sued by a troll that claimed to own the patent for “providing event photographs via a computer network.” In spite of the high litigation costs, Skelps decided to fight the patent troll and won a judgment using the Supreme Court’s Alice decision, which held that generic computer processes are not eligible to be patented. “Patent Trolls know that most small and medium sized businesses will settle rather than fight, because the costs are astronomical,” he said. “I was able to fight back, but many of my peers were not so lucky. In my opinion, it is time for Congress to step in to protect small business owners.”
Another entrepreneur who will attend the screening, Eric Rosebrock, received a demand letter targeting the app he created to help tune drum sets. “It isn’t just the business that suffers from fighting a patent troll,” Rosebrock said. “If a small business is fighting a patent troll, they may not be able to hire new workers. When you think about those far-reaching consequences, you can see how this issue really impacts entire communities.”
Engine supports the growth of technology entrepreneurship through economic research, policy analysis, and advocacy on local and national issues. Founded in 2011 to harness the political power of the startup and tech communities, Engine is a policy, advocacy, and research organization supporting startups as an engine for economic growth. Engine was instrumental in helping to defeat SOPA/PIPA and securing passage of the JOBS Act. Engine Research Foundation is a 501(c)(3) and Engine Advocacy is a 501(c)(4).”