聯邦貿易委員會(Federal Trade Commission, FTC)委員朱莉．布瑞爾（Julie Brill）對於2014年專利主張實體（Patent –Assertion Entity, PAE或是「專利流氓」, Patent Trolls）濫用專利訴訟提出一些有趣的回顧。即使聯邦貿易委員會正在研議一些濫用專利訴訟的法律及經濟誘因，值得注意的是朱莉．布瑞爾對修改法規的倡導。
Commissioner Julie Brill of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) offered some interesting year-end thoughts on abusive litigation by patent-assertion entities (“PAE”, or to some, “patent trolls”) in a speech last week. Most notable in Commissioner Brill’s comments was her call for legislative change even as FTC and the federal courts are addressing some of the legal and economic incentives for abusive patent litigation.
關於專利主張實體的研究，FTC將於2015年底前完成報告。FTC正在評估「委託私人打擊敵軍」(privateer)的執行。也就是，正常營運公司出售或授權專利給主張實體，此實體再對於其他正常營運公司的競爭對手進行專利強制執行。2014年5月的華盛頓法律基金會網路研討會(Washington Legal Foundation Web Seminar)－專利主張實體及委託私人打擊敵軍：當專利成為產品時，何時引發反壟斷法議題的關注？，此報告將聚焦於此類議題。
Brill discussed the Commission’s ongoing study of patent-assertion entities (the so-called 6(b) study), for which a final report is anticipated by the end of 2015. She emphasized that one of the issues FTC is assessing is the practice of “privateering,” where an operating company sells or licenses a patent to an assertion entity, which in turn enforces the patent against the operating entity’s market rivals. A May 2014 Washington Legal Foundation Web Seminar, Patent Assertion and “Privateering”: When Do Antitrust Law Concerns Arise When the Patent Is the Product?, focused on this practice.
上述網路演說也提到FTC委員會對於專利主張實體的第一個強制行動，促成了11月13日同意法令(November 13 Consent Decree)，此案涉及惡名昭彰的掃描機專利流氓(scanner troll)－MPHJ。MPHJ寄了上千張的授權要求信(licensing demand letter)，要求目標企業為每位員工支付至少1000美元給MPHJ，否則就提出訴訟。FTC出面調查MPHJ的理由，是MPHJ經常主張其與某些目標已企業簽訂授權合約，這不實主張，促使被騷擾企業須很急迫性的面對訴訟議題。
The speech also referenced the Commission’s first enforcement action against a patent-assertion entity, which resulted in a November 13 consent decree. The action involved notorious “scanner troll” MPHJ, which sent thousands of licensing demand letters that threatened litigation unless the target business paid MPHJ upwards of $1,000 per employee. FTC charged that MPHJ had fraudulently asserted that it had entered into licenses with some of its targets, and falsely claimed that litigation was imminent.
雖然，2014年最高法院對於專利侵權主張做出重要新判決，日後將對專利主張產生影響。FTC委員Brill認為許多專利主張實體持有的專利，這件事常造成不確定性本質，此一議題亦被最高法院於Nautilus Inc. v. Biosig Instruments, Inc.案中提出。在Alice Corp. Pty. Ltd. v. CLS Bank Int’l案中，提出了專利主張實體傾向將舊的抽象概念應用電腦完成轉為新發明；在Octane Fitness, LLC v. Icon Health & Fitness, Inc.及Highmark v. Allcare Health Mngt. Systems, Inc.案中，法院也提到專利被告人在對抗專利主張實體取得勝訴時求償律師費用的困難。
Commissioner Brill went on to stress the impact several 2014 Supreme Court decisions had on the larger patent-assertion problem. She focused on the indefinite nature of many PAE-held patents, an issue that the Court addressed in Nautilus Inc. v. Biosig Instruments, Inc.; the tendency of PAEs to “pass off old abstract ideas as inventions merely by implementing them using a computer,” which arose in Alice Corp. Pty. Ltd. v. CLS Bank Int’l; and the difficulty patent defendants had in seeking attorneys’ fees when they prevailed in court against PAEs, which the justices addressed in Octane Fitness, LLC v. Icon Health & Fitness, Inc. and Highmark v. Allcare Health Mngt. Systems, Inc.
Brill提出：「儘管近來有這些案例，仍存在許多需要國會關注的問題。」包含了「專利訴狀(必須)提供特定主張，說明是什麼去侵害到專利請求項以及被告是如何的侵權。」目前，由於Form 18過於老舊，使得聯邦民事訴訟規則84條(Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 84)規範的辯論標準，對於專利訴訟而言，反而造成濫訟、被鼓勵的。
She then stated that “despite these recent cases, there are still important issues for Congress to address.” We were pleased to see that among the areas Commissioner Brill highlighted as meriting continued congressional attention was that patent “complaints [must] provide specific allegations of what infringes a patent’s claim and how the defendant infringes them.” The current pleading standard, governed by the antiquated form (Form 18) Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 84 dictates for patent suits, encourages frivolous litigation, as we’ve argued previously.
It is unclear what lies ahead for patent litigation reform in the 114th Congress. But one can trust that with so much at stake, Senators and Representatives will heed Commissioner Brill’s admonition that Congress not “wait for completion of our 6(b) study” to move the debate forward. (668字)
FTC Commissioner Looks Back, And Ahead, On Patent Litigation Reform Efforts (2014.12.18)