Senate Commerce to Look at Patent Trolls

WASHINGTON—The Senate Commerce Committee is looking into patent trolls.

The issue is of interest to radio broadcasters as several ownership groups are fighting patent infringement allegations from DigiMedia over digital music storage and playback technology.

The Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety and Insurance has slated a hearing for Nov. 7 to examine the impact of demand letters from so-called “patent assertion entities” on small businesses, consumers and tech firms. The hearing will consider whether legislation is needed to provide increased protection for these individuals and groups.

Government and other experts estimate that some patent trolls can send upward of hundreds — or even thousands — of letters to small businesses with threats of litigation for alleged patent infringement and demand for payment. Many small business pay off, even if they haven’t violated any patents, to stem the legal expenses.

The Senate Commerce Committee also gained a new member this week, New Jersey Democrat and former Newark Mayor Cory Booker, recently elected.