Federal Trade Commission

FTC to Investigate Patent Troll Companies

Businesses that exist for the purpose of suing other businesses

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The Federal Trade Commission voted to begin an inquiry into "patent assertion entities," businesses whose only purpose is to stockpile patent portfolios and use them to sue companies like software designers and smartphone makers, the agency announced Friday.

The action is only the first step in what is likely to be a lengthy and broad investigation, which could eventually result in antitrust lawsuits against the companies.

Edith Ramirez, the chairwoman of the F.T.C., said in June that she believed there is little real evidence about the costs and benefits of a rising tide of patent litigation.