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CEA patent troll ad targets lawmakers at airport

The Consumer Electronics Association is bucking the typical advocacy practice of taking out a bunch of inside-the beltway newspaper ads. To campaign for legislation to combat patent trolls (patent assertion entities), the group turned to airport ads, where it knew it would catch the eyes of lawmakers headed back to their districts for the July 4 holiday.

The ads come at a critical time for the ongoing debate over patent troll legislation, which could be voted on in both chambers as soon as the week of July 13. Before the holiday, the House judiciary committee voted 24-8 to pass chairman Bob Goodlatte’s (R-Va.) Innovation Act, a bill that breezed through the House last year. On the Senate side, the judiciary committee cleared the PATENT Act, but the bill is probably in for more changes before it reaches the floor.

Strategically placed near the US Airways and Delta airport lounges at Reagan National Airport, the CEA’s ads feature new creative. Instead of the now familiar image of a patent troll, the ads tell individual stories to drive home the impact of abusive patent troll practices.

“It’s a new tactic for us,” said Jeff Joseph, the CEA’s senior vice president of communications and strategic relationships.

Along with the airport displays, the CEA is also running ads on WTOP radio and took out geo-targeted ads on Pandora.

Congress got very close last year to passing a patent reform bill addressing patent troll practices, only to have it killed at the last minute. But this year, biotech industry, universities, trial lawyers and other opponents to some provisions (like fee shifting), are more organized, making it tougher to advance sweeping legislation that pleases all stakeholders.

Patent reform advocates point to the need for Congress to act. In just one month, from April to May, the number of patent troll cases jumped 46 percent, per tracking data from UnifiedPatents. Smaller businesses – advertising agencies, restaurants, retailers often settle with PAEs after receiving a threatening demand letter. Rather than spend $2 million or more to litigate a case, the companies often just pay up.

If the House and Senate bills get reconciled, there’s every expectation that President Obama, who has made repeated calls for a bill to swat down patent trolls, will sign it.

The CEA’s campaign will run through mid-July, a week after Congress returns from the July 4 holiday.