The FTC has voted 4-0 to start an investigation of so-called “patent trolls.” The first step is to solicit public comment on a long series of questions that the agency plans to submit to about 25 of the most controversial patent-holding companies, which the FTC calls “patent assertion entities.”
“We want to use our 6(b) authority to expand the empirical picture on the costs and benefits of PAE activity,” Ramirez said today. “What we learn will support informed policy decisions.”
There have been numerous academic studies of patent trolls, but the FTC will be able to use subpoena powers to learn far more about the business than any of these studies. The commission will be able to learn about trolls’ corporate structures, how much they make, and where the money is really going. The data it collects about individuals trolling organizations will not be made public, but the FTC will likely publish aggregate information. The agency could even file antitrust lawsuits if it believes patent trolls are hampering competition.