Published on May 8, 2014
BOMA International recently joined 10 other industry organizations in a letter urging the U.S. Senate to pass legislation to limit the ability of so-called “patent trolls” to extort money from small businesses.The letter, largely coming from real estate associations, asks Congress to put into place penalties and other protections for businesses that receive letters from a “troll” asserting they are infringing on a patent in order to obtain payment via settlement.Typically, these trolls will use vague and overly broad language accusing a business of patent infringement. One common troll tactic is to sue an entity offering WiFi access in places such as lobbies, restaurants, atriums and other common areas of buildings.Rather than suing the technology vendors (such as the manufacturer of the WiFi equipment), these trolls will sue the entity offering the service. Small business defendants often can be intimidated into paying regardless of the merits of a plaintiff’s case.At the end of last year, bipartisan legislation (H.R. 3309, the Innovation Act) aimed at curtailing these trolls passed the House by a vote of 325 to 91. Similar legislation is expected to be marked up shortly in the Senate.For more information on patent trolls visit the Main Street Patent Coalition’s web site (mainstreetpatents.org).The Coalition represents a wide variety of businesses that are being attacked by trolls, to include retail, restaurants, hotels, travel, grocers and more. The current real estate members include the American Hotel and Lodging Association, National Association of Home Builders and National Association of Realtors.At the moment, BOMA International does not plan on joining the broader Coalition but is looking to lend their voice from a real estate perspective as this issue evolves.