Senate Judiciary chairman crafting bill to combat 'patent trolls'

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Numerous business groups have complained to Congress in recent months about "patent trolls"—firms that use bogus patent infringement claims to extort settlements out of companies. 

The firms target companies creating new products, but they also go after small businesses using common technologies such as scanners or Wi-Fi networks. They often have no plans to make products of their own.

Many companies agree to settle because the cost of fighting the charges in court is so high.

"The result of this misuse of the patent system is a drag on our economy," Leahy and Lee wrote in a joint op-ed in Politico on Sunday night. "It also tarnishes the image of legitimate patent holders. This is not the patent system provided for in our Constitution."

The senators said their legislation "will increase the transparency of patent ownership, protect the customer of a patented product when the manufacturer should really be the defendant and improve the process for reviewing patents at the United States Patent and Trademark Office."

Numerous lawmakers including Sens. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and John Cornyn (R-Texas) and Reps. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.), Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) and Ted Deutch (D-Fla.) have all introduced their own bills to combat patent trolls. The White House also announced a set of executive actions in June to address the problem.

Some House Democrats, however, have expressed concern that some legislative proposals could stifle legitimate patent lawsuits and cut off access to the courts.