| WASHINGTON, July 10
WASHINGTON, July 10 A U.S. House of
Representatives subcommittee on Thursday approved a draft bill
aimed at reining in companies that seek licensing fees for
invalid patents or are otherwise dishonest in writing what are
known as "demand letters."
The Energy and Commerce Committee subcommittee on Commerce,
Manufacturing and Trade voted 13-6 to approve a draft of the
Targeting Rogue and Opaque Letters Act, or TROL Act. It will
next be considered by the full committee.
The bill has provoked controversy because it would allow the
Federal Trade Commission to pursue companies that are dishonest
in demanding licensing for patents but only if it can prove bad
faith - essentially making it more difficult for the agency.
Further, the draft bill, if it becomes federal law, would
override tougher measure passed by a handful of states.
Lawmakers have made several attempts to tackle frivolous
patent litigation, which has recently moved from the tech and
pharmaceutical sectors into areas such as retailing, where
patent fights had been nearly unknown.
The bill's stated goal is to attack the practice by some
companies which, critics say, write letters demanding licensing
fees without first establishing that infringement exists or
disclosing who owns the patent. Critics say these companies hope
to badger their targets into paying out of fear.
The bill's acronym - TROL - is a play on "patent troll," the
term commonly used to refer to companies that try to assert
patent rights in an attempt to collect licensing fees but do not
make products or offer services based on those patents.
Senator Claire McCaskill, a Democrat from Missouri, has
introduced a similar bill in the Senate.
An attempt to win congressional approval for a broader
attack on frivolous patent litigation fizzled earlier this year.
That effort was led by Senator Patrick Leahy, a Vermont
Democrat, and Representative Bob Goodlatte, a Virginia
The White House has urged lawmakers to take steps to curb
abusive lawsuits. And the FTC has begun a study of patent
assertion entities with an eye toward reining in the worst of
(Reporting by Diane Bartz; Editing by Jonathan Oatis)