The FTC probe into patent-asserting entities has found that further action of other agencies of government may be required. Patent assertion entities, or patent trolls, are companies that have made a business of obtaining and subsequently invoking those patents. Though the ability of the FTC to subpoena will be useful in gathering information about the operation of patent assertion entities, it is not certain what the value of the investigation will be beyond that.

Ballard Spahr partner Lawrence Nodine, in weighing in on the FTC investigation, explained that the probe "has great potential to uncover some of the larger trends" related to patent assertion entities, "but it certainly isn't a panacea."

The FTC will look for both letters that wrongfully claim patent infringement and for the transference of patents from operation companies to patent-asserting entities with the aim of using those patents against rival companies. A large problem seems to be the scope of the issues, giving these companies a large basis from which to litigate. Mr. Nodine explains that "many of the techniques of plaintiffs' counsel are perfectly legitimate. They're applying the law as it exists. The problem is the law."

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Intellectual Property