The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has launched an inquiry into the ongoing supply chain disruptions affecting a broad array of goods across the economy. Using a compulsory process to investigate the competitive impact of supply chain disruptions in consumer goods, under Section 6(b) of the Federal Trade Commission Act, 15 U.S.C. § 46(b), the FTC is requiring nine large retailers, wholesalers, and consumer good suppliers to supply information on the causes for the disruptions and the ongoing impact for consumers and competition. Additionally, the FTC is requesting comments from the public, including retailers, suppliers, wholesalers, consumers, and other interested parties.

The FTC intends to understand the disruptions better and “examine whether supply chain disruptions are leading to specific bottlenecks, shortages, anticompetitive practices, or contributing to rising consumer prices.”
Continue Reading FTC Investigates Supply Chain Issues and Impact on Consumers

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) sent Warning Letters to three companies that sell products containing cannabidiol (CBD) and advertise that the products prevent, treat, or cure disease without substantiation of the purported health benefits.  The products covered by these warnings letters were oils, tinctures, gummies, and dietary supplements.

Continue Reading FTC Issues Warning Letters to Three CBD Companies

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Over the past few years, we have been reporting on the full frontal assault against patent assertion entities (PAEs), pejoratively referred to as patent trolls in blog posts in May 2014, July 2014 and December 2014.   Actions to curb these perceived pariahs of the US economy have come from nearly every angle of attack including the White House, Congress, the Federal Trade Commission and all the way down to various state houses.   Although much has happened on many of the fronts we have previously reported, much has stayed the same.  We thought now would be a good time to reflect over the last year’s activities to see if the strategy of patent litigation as a business is truly nearing its demise.

To catch those of you up who are unfamiliar with the term, “patent troll” generally refers to an individual or entity that focuses its efforts solely on enforcing patent rights against purported infringers without itself intending to manufacture the patented product or supply the patented service. Patent trolls are often accused of a sort of “21st century shakedown,” often holding vaguely worded patents and, rather than using the protected technology themselves, demanding “licensing fee” payments from alleged infringers in hopes that their targets will settle rather than defend themselves in court.   Patent trolls are most often thought of as asserting computer implemented inventions claimed in so-called business method patents.  The bread and butter tactics of a troll usually begin with sending demand letters to accused infringers, inviting a quick settlement before prolonged litigation likely to cost the accused infringer several multiples of what the troll will take to resolve the issue.

To be sure, patent trolling is big business in the U.S.  A number of studies conducted on the subject have found that patent trolling cost the U.S. economy close to $30 billion each year, with many small businesses paying significant sums to defend themselves or settle claims raised by patent trolls.

Federal Legislation to Reform the Patent Act

Since our first post on the subject back in May 2014, there have been several attempts at reforming the US Patent Act in order, at least in part, to rope in patent trolls. In July 2015, the Innovations Act (H.R. 9) was reintroduced in Congress and was designed principally to put a legislative lid on patent trolls.  A key, and controversial, element of the bill is a revision to the Patent Act to provide a presumption that the winner of any infringement suit will have its attorney’s fees paid by the loser.

Despite its early wide-spread bipartisan support, the Innovations Act has lost its momentum and appears to be dead – at least for the time being.  As it turns out, there are several critics to the bill’s concepts, including universities and other research and development-based businesses that do not generally practice the inventions they create. Undaunted, Representative Bob Goodlatte (R-Va) vows to keep up the fight.
Continue Reading What is Up with Patent Reform, and What About Those Darn Trolls?

Earlier this year, an entity using the moniker “U.S. Right to Know” filed separate petitions with the Federal Trade Commission and the Federal Drug Administration contending that American consumers are being deceived by use of the term “diet” on or in relation to soft drinks that contain “non-nutritional artificial sweeteners” (NNAS) such as  aspartame.  Under