Joff Wild

The Federal Trade Commission and the Department of Justice have published the agenda and the list of speakers for their one day workshop that will “explore the impact of patent assertion entity (PAE) activities on innovation and competition and the implications for antitrust enforcement and policy”. The event takes place on 10th December in Washington DC and my understanding is that there are no spaces left to attend in person. However, it will be available to view via webcast.

There are few if any clues as to which way the FTC and DoJ may be leaning in terms of their views on the subject, as they have assembled a stellar list of speakers that represent all strands of opinion in the debate. However, I guess that the fact they are having a workshop in the first place indicates that they believe there are issues that need to be addressed. One straw in the wind may be the identities of the two academics who will kick things off, as both Colleen Chien and Carl Shapiro have written critically about the activities of PAEs/NPEs in the past. However, the panels are very balanced, with all sides in the debate being given a fair crack of the whip in terms of time allocation.

One panel that looks to be very interesting is the one entitled “Potential Harms From PAE Activity”, which is scheduled for the afternoon. Among those slated to appear is Michael Meurer who, along with James Bessen, has authored a number of widely-publicised books and papers that have been highly critical of NPEs and of the US patent system in general. Alongside him will be David Schwartz from the Illinois Institute of Technology Chicago-Kent College of Law who with co-author Jay Kesan produced a compelling paper that questioned some of the research Bessen and Meurer have done on NPEs and which raised concerns about a number of the conclusions the two have reached about them. The sparks could fly!