As the owner of a small business in Illinois focused on solar technology, my days are often hectic. Renewable energy is a promising industry that stands to generate jobs and investment in our state for decades to come. Unfortunately, I have recently been distracted from my business by a threat that I never saw coming: patent trolls.
Patent trolls are shell companies that provide no services or goods. Using flaws in our patent system, they operate in several ways. Often, trolls buy up vague patents and then demand payment from businesses for patent infringement that has not taken place. Some patent trolls claim to possess patents that do not belong to them, or were fraudulently filed. Trolls have sued restaurants and hotels for offering Wi-Fi to customers, and have targeted public transit agencies for using GPS.
Patent lawsuits are very expensive. Even though the trolls have weak legal claims, defending a frivolous suit is far more expensive than settling the case. The trolls know this and make demands for settlements that are cheaper than going to court. The trolls are forcing us to pay a toll just to do business.
We business owners in Illinois need our elected officials in Washington D.C. to take action. We need to take away the incentive for the trolls by undercutting their business model. Instead of fighting patent trolls, we could be propelling Illinois as a renewable energy leader. It’s time to stop the trolls and get Illinois businesses back to work.
James P. Bologeorges
CEO of Smart Solar, Libertyville