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Fixing America's Patent Problem Means Going Beyond Trolls

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney holds a folder with an image of a troll and the words "innovation, not litigation" during a daily briefing on June 4
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney holds a folder with an image of a troll and the words "innovation, not litigation" during a daily briefing on June 4Photograph by Evan Vucci/AP Photo

The so-called patent troll has become one of the tech industry’s favorite monsters in recent years, and on Tuesday the Obama administration announced it would pick a fight with patent-holding companies that produce nothing but lawsuits.

The trolls—or patent assertion entities, to use the White House’s less catchy and more presidential term—threatened 100,000 companies with lawsuits last year alone, according to a report issued Tuesday along with the White House’s proposals. Defendants and licensees paid $11 billion to trolls in 2011, four times the total from 2005. Since the money went to companies that don’t actually make things, little of it ended up going back into new innovations.