Published on December 2, 2013

Patent trolling bill gets House committee approval

WASHINGTON (Dec. 2, 2013) — The U.S. House Judiciary Committee has approved a bill to address patent troll litigation.

The bipartisan vote was 33–5 for the legislation (HR 3309) that had the support of the Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA).

At issue are frivolous lawsuits asserting that a company or individual is infringing a patent, according to SEMA. The entity making the assertion is usually seeking licensing fees but not actually manufacturing a product or supplying services.

The allegations are frequently associated with common technologies or business practices rather than a single patent. The lawsuits have exploded in recent years, Diamond Bar, Calif.-based SEMA said, costing small and large businesses billions of dollars. Many companies typically settle a lawsuit rather than fight the cases, allowing the “patent trolls” to secure funds to pursue other parties.

SEMA said the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), in a separate action, has launched a study to address the patent trolling problem. Among other actions, the FTC might recommend that specific allegations be included in so-called demand letters that patent holders send to alleged infringers in order to create a public database and improve transparency of the allegations being pursued.

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