THE UNITED STATES Federal Trade Commission (FTC) will look into ridiculous but disruptive software patents and the shadowy entities that hold them.
The FTC was asked to look at patent trolls by several members of Congress. A letter signed by 19 Congress members and addressed to FTC chair Edith Ramirez said that patent trolls are useless, get in the way, slow down innovation and extract money from more deserving firms.
"As Members of Congress, we are closely following the troubling practices carried out by patent assertion entities, commonly known as patent trolls throughout the country. We are most concerned about practices that target end users who are the downstream users of technology," the letter read.
"Patent trolls are using a business model that seeks to extract money from end users who must make the difficult choice to settle in order to continue investing in their business, rather than pursue potentially frivolous litigation."
According to the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), FTC Chair Ramirez has announced the start of an investigation.
"The FTC can provide similar guidance-and influence-regarding the troll problem. Patent trolls tend to operate in secret behind a web of shell companies. By using its authority under section 6(b) of the FTC Act, the agency will be able to use its subpoena power to discover what is really going on," the EFF said in a statement.
"This is why today's announcement is such big news. The FTC has both the expertize and the power to uncover the truth. We hope the agency uses them well."
The EFF is a vocal opponent of software patent trolls, and last year it asked anyone that might have been affected by them to come forward and help inform its picture of the situation. In April it called for action to eliminate them. µ