Keep patent trolls out of your hotel
Keep patent trolls out of your hotel
29 JULY 2014 6:34 AM
Don’t let yourself be a victim of patent trolls. Hoteliers should take action in the patent-reform fight.
Our country’s patent system is broken, and patent trolls are working hard to put small business and hotel owners out of business. Despite legislation with bipartisan support in Congress trying to make it more difficult for these trolls and their predatory practices to file lawsuits with vague patent claims, troll lawsuits have reportedly more than tripled in the last two years. Claims cost the United States economy a staggering $80 billion annually.
What is a patent troll? These are usually companies that purchase patents on inventions for products they do not manufacture, and then sue and/or threaten to sue organizations with dubious claims, saying they have infringed on the patents. Sometimes the mere threatening of litigation is enough to collect royalties from innocent third-party users.
As HNN’s Ed Watkins wrote, much the way the Americans with Disabilities Act drive-by lawsuits put single-asset hoteliers out of business in the ‘90s with scams where lawyers coaxed a disabled person to sue a hotel over minor or non-existent violations, this is what we are facing now. Small businesses comprise the majority of the hotel industry, and these owners are suffering from frivolous patent lawsuits. This not only prevents us from turning our full focus to enhancing the guest experience and driving our economy forward, but it also threatens our livelihood.
This is particularly evident with lawsuits filed against hotels for offering such services as wireless Internet access for guests. The hoteliers are the innocent product purchasers simply trying to make things better for guests. We have done nothing wrong. Meanwhile, we are targeted for abuse of patent laws; and without the resources to fight in court, many of us decide to simply pay out the settlement amount. 
Patent reform has achieved significant support from both sides of the aisle, and it almost looked as if Congress was about to do something to help small businesses with some recently-introduced legislation. Almost. While there was support in Congress, after some slick lobbying, it was tabled from a Senate Committee’s agenda for the current session.
Take action
How can you get involved to keep patent trolls out of your hotel? 
  • Rather than settle, take action. Most owners and operators do not have the financial resources to fight aggressive patent-troll litigation, and many times they think their only recourse is to settle. Don’t settle!
  • Let your legislators know that patent reform must happen. Help protect industry employees, employers and customers. Send a letter to your senators urging them to support legislation to help end the abuses of patent trolls and protect American businesses.
  • Consider taking a lead role in the national legislative fight, either through the American Hotel & Lodging Association or its state associations across the country.
  • Visit policymakers on Capitol Hill. This is a hard fight. Unfortunately, unless legislation is passed, things can only get worse. 

With a long and distinguished career in the hospitality industry, Bakulesh “Buggsi” Patel is chairman of the IHG Owners Association and the first Asian American to lead the association. He has held leadership roles in numerous lodging associations, including the American Hotel & Lodging Association (AH&LA), Asian American Hotel Owners Association (AAHOA), Washington Lodging Association and Oregon Lodging Association (OLA). He is president of Oregon-based BHG Hotels.
The opinions expressed in this column do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Hotel News Now or its parent company, STR and its affiliated companies. Columnists published on this site are given the freedom to express views that might be controversial, but our goal is to provoke thought and constructive discussion within our reader community. Please feel free to comment or contact an editor with any questions or concerns. 

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