Intellectual Property

FTC may probe patent trolls


The leader of the Federal Trade Commission is expected to recommend an investigation of patent trolls, the companies that buy patents and sue for infringement.

FTC chairwoman Edith Ramirez is expected to reveal her recommendation today at an industry conference, the New York Times reports. Approval by the full commission is likely, the newspaper says.

According to the Times, the so-called 6(b) study would require patent trolls to “answer questions about how they conduct their operations, including whether they coordinate their lawsuits with other patent holders and if they funnel proceeds from lawsuits and patent licenses back to the original patent owner.” A 6(b) study gathers information for executive agencies, Congress or the courts, and doesn’t necessarily have a law enforcement purpose.

The story refers to patent troll suits that “sometimes exceed comprehension.” One suit claimed thousands of companies violated a patent by connecting a document scanner to a computer network and sending a scanned file. A 2011 suit targeted coffee shops that offered customers Wi-Fi service.

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