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Senate Moving to End Patent Trolling

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U. S. Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO) has convened a meeting on Capitol Hill to address the widespread and ever-increasing practice of “patent trolling”, where shell companies buy patent rights, then wield them against tech companies (and others) in order to extort money for the use of the intellectual property in which these patents are based.

According to Ars Technica, the reason for McCaskill’s involvement is not only to protect companies from the over-zealous use of the legal system, but to protect consumers.

[box style=’note’] “The issue here is not about the right to assert one’s patent,” said McCaskill. “It’s not even really about the patent system. It’s about the deceptive and unfair practice of threatening consumers. It’s about scam artists preying on the vulnerable.” [/box]

Electronic Frontier Foundation Senior Staff Attorney Julie Samuels testified that this practice of sending demand letters as a first step to collect money for alleged patent infringement occurs out of the realm of public scrutiny for the most part. This leaves the reach of patent trolls to go unchecked by the light of public awareness:

[box style=’note’] “These trolls conduct the vast majority of their business under the veil of secrecy,” she said. [/box]

The Senate Commerce Committee’s intent is to create a national registry with the Federal Trade Commission whereby these demand letters must be registered in a single, public database. The idea is that if these companies have to operate with this transparency, they might be more judicious in their practices.

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