Internet Association helps businesses, startups fight patent trolls
Posted: OCTOBER 31, 2013
Along with the challenges that come with starting any business, tech startups now have a whole new array of issues to worry about. The Internet Association, a Washington, D.C.-based political lobbying organization focused on protecting Internet freedom, is out to help.
Earlier this month Michael Beckerman, the organization’s president and CEO, visited Council Bluffs, Iowa, for a roundtable to discuss patent trolling with Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley and a number of Iowa businesses. According to the Internet Association, in the last year alone, patent trolls have threatened more than 100,000 companies with patent infringement lawsuits.
Beckerman says the process is simple and fairly low-risk for patent trolls. The group files an overly general patent—Beckerman says a patent on an online shopping cart or on sending links in emails are fairly common examples—and then serve a wide array of companies with patent infringement suits. In most cases, fighting the suits in court would be costly so businesses are forced to pay infringement fees.
But protecting companies from patent trolls is just one of the Internet Association’s goals. The organization was formed in 2012 after a number of large Internet-based corporations saw the need for further Internet protection. “The Internet companies came together and decided they wanted to have a unified voice together in Washington for policy issues,” Beckerman said.
The larger organizations behind the Association—tech giants like Amazon, eBay and AOL, to name a few—asked Beckerman if he would be willing to leave his place as a top congressional staff member and head up the new group. Beckerman agreed and has since been named “Tech Titan” by The Washingtonian.
“What we’ve been saying in Iowa, and in every other state too, is that any business can find ways to use the Internet to reach their customers in a new and more effective way,” Beckerman told Silicon Prairie News.
Since its creation the Association also has placed a focus on the importance of Internet companies, recently releasing findings of a study that claim nearly $141 billion is generated annually by part-time Internet businesses.
“You could be the smallest farmer in Iowa, but because of the Internet you can reach markets and customers around the world in a cost-effective and efficient way that would have never been possible a handful of years ago,” he said.
Beckerman says he views the presence of Internet heavyweights like Facebook and Google in Iowa as assets to the state and its entrepreneurial community. The jobs data centers create and the visibility they bring to the region can only do more to serve the community, he said.
“The reason that’s able to happen is because that platform is a democratic force for the economy and for businesses,” Beckerman said of the Internet.
A number of bills regarding patent trolling have been introduced in the House and Senate, though Beckerman says it’s unlikely any form of legislation will be passed until next year at the earliest.
“The momentum is certainly on our side,” he said. “Members of Congress from both sides of the aisle agree this is a problem that needs solving.”
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