Last week, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) announced its decision to seek public comment on a proposal to gather information from approximately 25 patent assertion entities (PAE). The agency defines a PAE as a company whose business model focuses primarily on purchasing patents and then attempting to generate revenue by asserting the intellectual property against persons who are already practicing the patented technologies. The FTC also anticipates seeking information from approximately 15 other entities asserting patents in the wireless communications sector, including manufacturers and other non-practicing entities or licensing organizations. None of the PAEs or other firms has been identified by the FTC.
In late 2012, the FTC and Department of Justice conducted an industry workshop on the impact of PAEs on innovation and competition. Workshop participants identified numerous potential harms, but noted the lack of empirical data on PAE activities. The FTC now proposes to collect such data pursuant to its information-gathering authority under Section 6(b) of the FTC Act. The full scope of the information the FTC will seek is described in the official notice, which is can be found here. Public comments will be accepted for 60 days following publication in the Federal Register.