In a recent Washington Post news article, trademark litigation is the topic of discussion whereby college students faced threats of infringement by energy drink giant, Monster Beverage. The owner of the Siver Spring business, MonsterFishKeepers, Li Chih, had no idea filing a trademark for his company would wind up in threats of litigation fights that could cost his company upwards of $100,000.

The unfortunate reality is, though, Fortune 500 companies habitually file action suits against small businesses knowing they will fear going bankrupt defending their case. What they don’t realize is this is a classic case of IP trolling, and small businesses do have recourse when hiring an experienced attorney for litigation involving intellectual property.

Patent trolls: what you need to know

Rather than creating new ideas, a patent troll will use a patent or trademark they hold as a legal weapon during threats of litigation or actual court cases. There are cases, too, whereby the troll will find victims producing products under a similar technology or name and threaten litigation. The good news is that lawmakers knew about the issue, thus, the development of two bills to fight trolls took place:

  • Innovation Act: According to a 2015 Washington Post news article, Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte made comments about the Innovation Act, that it would take the “necessary steps to address abusive patent litigation while protecting legitimate property rights.”
  • TROL Act: According to Legal Newsline, “The TROL Act aims to protect businesses while preserving the ability of patent holders to legitimately protect their intellectual property by increasing transparency and accountability in demand letters. It also would give the Federal Trade Commission the authority to levy fines on fraudulent practices.”

You don’t need to be a Fortune 500

The good news about trademark, patent and copyright litigation is you don’t have to own a Fortune 500 company to defend your business. Take the college students, for example, who fought Monster Beverage. They worked with a group of third-year Suffolk law students in an intellectual property law clinic. Anne Hulecki, who was the practitioner-in-residence overseeing and assisting the student attorneys, knew the case had legal merit. In the end, the small business won and, in an announcement on his forum, Chih wrote, “I have beaten the monster!”

At Emerson Thomson Bennett, LLC we provide trademark litigation services and take the matter of IP trolling very seriously. It isn’t uncommon for small businesses to have questions about trademarks and intellectual property. So, it’s important to have those questions answered by an experienced attorney as a means of avoiding IP trolling issues. When further action is necessary, our firm helps businesses of all sizes defend their rights.

Source: The Washington Post, “These college students took on one of America’s top trademark bullies – and won,” Drew Harwell, Feb. 29, 2016

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