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Senate Tees Up 'Troll' Hearing

The Senate Judiciary Committee has scheduled a May 7 hearing on the PATENT Act, a bill that cracks down on so-called patent "trolls," patent assertion entities (PAE) who try to game the system to extort money.

Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and ranking member Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) introduced the PATENT Act April 29. That came as the House Energy & Commerce Committee was debating, and passing, its effort to rein in abusive patent letters.

Both Democrats and Republicans agree on the need to crack down on patent letter abuses, where hundreds or thousands of letters are sent in hopes that some percentage of recipients without the patent attorney muscle and resources to fight will just send money. But the issue is balancing the legitimate speech and economic rights of patent holders who don't want those rights weakened, and of companies who have the wherewithal to defend against troll letters, with smaller businesses and nonprofits who are most likely to pay out of fear or lack of funds.

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.