Patent 'troll' legislation passes U.S. House subcommittee with some industry support

The U.S. House of Representatives Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing, and Trade voted on Thursday to approve legislation intended to curb the practice of companies asserting patent rights solely to collect licensing fees, rather than offering products or services based on those patents.

Known as patent "trolls," the bill--the "Targeting Rogue and Opaque Letters Act" or TROL Act--seeks to deter these bad corporate actors. The Medical Device Manufacturers Association (MDMA) and the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) both submitted letters in support of the bill.

It was a bipartisan vote of 13 to 6. The draft bill is intended to protect businesses from abusive patent "trolls" while protecting legitimate intellectual fraud. It provides for increased transparency and accountability in patent demand letters and provides the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) with the authority to levy fines on fraudulent practices.

"With so many stakeholders with differing perspectives, the process has been difficult--but our product reflects the input of the most divergent interests on this subject. Our bill strikes the appropriate balance," the subcommittee chair Rep. Lee Terry (R-NE) said in a statement.

Mark Leahey

MDMA President and CEO Mark Leahey said in a letter of support prior to the vote, "We support the TROL Act because it protects businesses and consumers from deceptive demand letters, maintains the integrity of the U.S. patent system, and establishes a strong federal regime for enforcement."

The bill will now go for a vote before the full Energy and Commerce Committee. A similar bill has been introduced in the Senate by Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO), Reuters notes.

- here is the subcommittee statement on the TROL Act
- here is the MDMA letter on the bill and a list of the bill's supporters
- and here is the Reuters story

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