A group of Democratic senators demanded that the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) improve the quality of patents approved in order to avoid costly legal battles later. 

Sens. Jeff MerkleyJeffrey (Jeff) Alan MerkleyOvernight Energy: Senate confirms Bridenstine as NASA chief | Watchdog probes Pruitt’s use of security detail | Emails shine light on EPA science policy changes 32 male senators back Senate women's calls to change harassment rules Duckworth brings her baby to Senate vote, drawing a crowd MORE (D-Ore.), Mark Begich (D-Alaska), Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), Tom Udall (D-N.M.) and Mark Warner (D-Va.) sent a letter Wednesday to the U.S. Department of Commerce to more thoroughly examine patent applications. They said this would reduce abuses and litigation from “patent trolls.”

“From home builders to small businesses, far too many ordinary Americans that have little if anything to do with the innovation process have been negatively affected by abusive patent trolling,” the senators wrote. “We believe one of the best ways to address abusive legal actions that stem from overly broad assertions of low-quality patents is to ensure patents are high-quality from the start.”

The senators made several recommendations to the USPTO, such as increasing public access to patents online and strengthening examiner guidelines and documentation practices.

Merkley said if the USPTO can reduce ambiguity and reject low quality patents, fewer patent trolls could take advantage of weaknesses in the quality of patents to “harass consumers and businesses.”