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Senate holds hearing on patent trolls, demand letters

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Published on: 11/14/2013

Bottom feeders or patent-protecting descendants of Edison? Lawyers, activists, and business leaders testified before the U.S. Senate Commerce subcommittee last week on the topic of patent trolls.

The Nov. 7 Senate Commerce Committee hearing featured heated debate and remarkable first-hand accounts of the financial toll wrought by patent assertion entities. Among the highlights: U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-MO, decried patent trolls as "bottom feeders and scam artists" and called for whistle blowers to step forward to shed light on their practices; a law professor at George Mason University insisted patent troll anecdotes do not a systematic patent problem make; and the Nebraska attorney general indicated that knowingly vague and deceptive demand letters threatening law suits themselves may be illegal.

Big and small businesses alike also weighed in: the general counsel for technology giant Cisco and the owner of a regional chain of consumer electronics stores each talked candidly about how patent assertion litigation has affected their bottom line.

Click here to read our Storify of tweets, photos, and videos from the hearing.