NRF applauds White House’s actions on patent trolls
The National Retail Federation sent a message of encouragement to the government, which it praised for its attention to the ongoing patent troll case while urging Congress to solidify protections for retailers.
“The National Retail Federation credits the administration’s attention to strengthening the United States patent system and proposing a series of measures aimed at protecting Main Street retailers and restaurants from abusive patent trolls," said NRF SVP David French in a statement issued Feb. 20 before his meetings at the White House, where the administration called on Congress later that day to pass comprehensive legislation. "The president has recognized the economic harm caused by patent trolls, and we welcome the administration’s leadership on this priority. Further transparency, clarity, education and enforcement are all welcome steps for the nation’s business community."
The White House announced delivery on a number of initiatives that day following up to President Obama’s State of the Union address, including a draft rule by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office aimed at promoting transparency, a pilot training program to help USPTO examiners promote patent clarity, an online toolkit aimed at educating consumers and main-street retailers on their rights regarding patent claim settlements, and other actions designed to strengthen the existing patent system.
It also announced three executive actions to take effect immediately while it waits for Congress to "finish the job by passing common-sense patent reform legislation." These include a new initiative to help patent holders find, or crowdsource, "prior art" (or technical information that will help determine whether the patent in question is truly an innovation); an expansion of the USPTO’s Patent Examiner Technical Training Program to provide better technical training to patentexaminers; and the dedication of pro bono and pro se assistance by the USPTO to help inventors without the means to access legal representation.
The House of Representatives passed the Innovation Act in December by wide margins. Meanwhile, an analagous Senate version (called the Patent Transparency and Improvements Act), led by Senate judiciary chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.)., is likely slated for a hearing sometime this month. Once the Senate passes that bill, a conference committee would reconcile it with the House bill, which would then be signed off on by the President.
“The administration has created a path forward for Congress to address patent trolls and we urge them to take up that responsibility now," added French.
In the meantime, Sen. Claire McCaskill, chairman of the consumer protection subcommittee, introduced a bill last Thursday to help increase transparency in patent troll demand letters. Called the Transparency in Assertion of Patents Act, the bill would increase the Federal Trade Commission’s authority in requiring minimum disclosures from patent infringement claims.
PRO Group welcomes new distributor
PRO Group has announced the addition of Monsey, N.Y.-based BTL Distributors, a wholesale distributor serving hardware and paint supply stores in New York and New Jersey, to its membership.
"We are pleased to join the PRO Group organization and look forward to networking with member distributors and suppliers at several PRO events in 2014," said BTL partner Sol Grossman.
According to PRO Group, BTL is joining the team for its marketing, purchasing and operational advantages. It contributes a wide product assortment in adhesives & sealants, hardware & locks, janitorial supplies, lighting & electrical supplies, lubricants, moisture absorbers, paint & marking supplies, pest control, pet supplies, plumbing supplies, safety & protection supplies, tapes, tools and seasonal items.
"BTL adds immediate volume to dozens of PRO Hardware Key Supplier programs and brings a fresh perspective to PRO Group as a new member," said PRO Group managing director Shari Kalbach.
Based in Denver, PRO Group is a merchandising and marketing organization made up of 29 regional distributors. Retail divisions under the PRO Group umbrella include PRO Hardware, GardenMaster and Farm Mart.
What breach? Sears sees no evidence of hacking
The Secret Service was investigating a possible security breach at Sears last Friday, but the retailer issued a statement the same day announcing that it found no evidence of foul play in its systems.
"There have been rumors and reports throughout the retail industry of security incidents at various retailers, and we are actively reviewing our systems to determine if we have been a victim of a breach," read the prepared statement. "We have found no information based on our review of our systems to date indicating a breach."
U.S. retailers, including Neiman Marcus and Michaels, have experienced several security breaches since Target’s data systems were initially compromised in November and December. The Target data breach exposed 40 million card numbers and 70 million pieces of personal data.