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Senate Commerce Schedules Patent Troll Hearing

The Senate Commerce Committee will hold a hearing Nov. 7 on protecting small businesses from patent trolls.

The issue has been getting a lot of attention on the Hill, with two bills introduced over the past two weeks to crack down on patent assertion entities (PAEs) that send demand letters threatening litigation (and seeking payments) for alleged patent infringement.

The avowed goal of the hearing, according to the committee, is whether legislation is needed to provide increased protection for "small businesses, consumers and innovators."

"It is estimated that some patent trolls can send upward of hundreds – or even thousands – of letters to small businesses with threats of litigation for alleged patent infringement and demand for payment," said the committee. "Lately, many small businesses have paid the demands, even if they have not violated any patents, because of the high costs associated with the patent dispute process and potential litigation. Compounding the problem is the lack of basic disclosures and specificity in the demand letter that would allow recipients to make informed decisions, leaving consumers vulnerable to abuse."