US antitrust regulators have recently developed great interest in patent trolls, which they have taken to calling “patent assertion entities” or PAEs. But it seems like they still haven’t decided what to do about trolls. At recent hearings, critics lamented extortion-like demands, while supporters proclaimed trolls’ benefits to “invention markets.”
While they haven’t yet settled on a plan of action, the regulators are certainly thinking the issue over. Just last week, dozens of comments were submitted to the antitrust agencies (US Department of Justice and Federal Trade Commission) suggesting what they should do—or not do—about the troll issue.
Trolls are causing great harm. They are filing more lawsuits with no fear of countersuit. They are seeking exclusion orders in the ITC. They are suing as patents are about to expire. They are pushing startups out of the market. They are targeting technology users. They are helping established companies harm rivals. They are avoiding promises made by predecessors. Despite claims that trolls help inventors and that the empirical evidence is not yet complete (when is it ever?), the antitrust agencies can act right now to address the troll problem. This op ed for Ars Technica offers six actions the agencies can take.