FTC wants to investigate ‘patent trolls’

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“Patents are key to innovation and competition, so it’s important for us to get a better understanding of how PAEs operate,” FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez said in a statement.

The agency, which voted unanimously in favor of the investigation, would like to use its authority to prompt companies to share nonpublic information to “support informed policy decisions,” Ramirez said.

That nonpublic information includes “licensing agreements, patent acquisition information, and cost and revenue data, which will provide a more complete picture of PAE activity,” according to the agency.

The 25 companies receiving these investigatory letters would be asked about their organization, the number of patents they hold, how they acquire patents, how they assert those patents and what they spend and earn through asserting those patents.

The agency said they would also send letters to 15 companies “asserting patents in the wireless communications sector” and compare those practices to the practices of PAEs.

FTC Commissioner Maureen Ohlhausen said the information obtained through the investigation would help the agency address any competition issues that arise from PAEs.

Sound policy can come “only through having a much better picture of what is happening and not relying on anecdotes,” she said while speaking at an event hosted by the Innovation Alliance on Friday.

“More data will give us a much better window into if there is a problem” and, if there is a problem, how to solve it, she said.

The issue is also currently being considered in Congress. Earlier this week, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) released a second discussion draft of his bill addressing patent litigation.