Tech groups applaud patent troll investigation but want legislation

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The agency’s unanimous vote to conduct the investigation “is an encouraging sign that the Administration is committed to investigating the practices of patent trolls,” Ed Black, CEO of the Computer and Communications Industry Association, said in a statement.

“Trolls thus far have taken steps to hide their tracks through a maze of hundreds of shell companies, and the FTC’s investigatory powers can finally shine a light on these secretive practices and the cost to consumers, innovators and our economy."

The investigation will expose the scope of patent litigation abuse that harms innovators, Michael Beckerman, CEO of the Internet Association, said. 

Currently, it’s nearly impossible to tell how many small businesses face patent litigation because most cases end in settlements with non-disclosure agreements that keep the affected companies from talking about their experience, he said.

The FTC has the authority to demand companies produce “non-public” information, including details of licensing agreements.

“The universe [of patent troll victims] is pretty big, and the only way to find out is going to the trolls themselves,” Beckerman said.

Ultimately, patent litigation abuse is a “much bigger problem” and will need congressional action, Beckerman said. There is already “great movement in Congress” on the issue, and the FTC investigation “adds to the momentum.”

One patent reform advocate agreed, saying legislation is “definitely needed.”