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ICYMI- L Brands, Abercrombie Could get Protection from Patent Trolls Under New Federal Legislation

Columbus Business First
L Brands, Abercrombie could get protection from patent trolls under new federal legislation
Posted Nov 8, 2013, 4:49pm EST

Did you know there’s a patent protecting “accessing, assembling, and using bodies of information”?

Yikes, that sounds like … like journalism.

It’s one of about five patent infringement claims filed in recent years against New Albany-based Abercrombie & Fitch Co. by companies that buy broad patents on business methods and look for infringers to sue. E-commerce sites have been sued for using the ubiquitous online “shopping cart.”

The less-than-flattering term for these companies is “patent trolls,” and federal legislation is in the works to make the lawsuits harder to file.

Companies that to fight the claims succeed in invalidating the patents or complaints 85 percent of the time, but the process is costly and judges rarely award costs to the victors, said Michael Beckerman, CEO of the Internet Association, a trade group of the largest online retailers. The discovery phase before trial alone can cost $350,000 to $2 million.

“It’s so expensive to get to that point, most people end up settling,” he said.

The lawsuits were the topic of a Senate hearing on Thursday and a bill was introduced in the U.S. House last month.

It was not welcomed by the groups in favor of the patent-holders.

Beckerman said the bill will shift the timeline of the cases to toss more overly broad patents out earlier in the process, and also impose the duty to pay court costs on those filing frivolous suits.

“This is costing the economy $80 billion a year,” he said.

By far the biggest Central Ohio target of the infringemet claims – with nine filed in the past three years, according to information compiled by the Internet Association – is L Brands Inc.(NYSE:LTD) and its Victoria’s Secret and Bath & Body Works brands. Several of those claims were for using “real-time web transactions from web applications.” Yeah.

Other local targets include DSW Inc. (NYSE:DSW), Bob Evans Farms Inc. (NASDAQ:BOBE) and Huntington Bancshares Inc. – in a case involving several banks sued by patent owner Intellectual Ventures II LLC.