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Three Issues to Watch as the Senate Targets Patent Trolls

Rousing itself from its tendency toward angry paralysis, a large and bipartisan majority in the House quickly passed legislation that would tamp down on patent abuses. Congress has been heavily lobbied to pass some kind of patent reform this year, and everyone from Verizon Communications to the National Retail Foundation and the Electronic Frontier Foundation praised Thursday’s vote.

Public debate on the issue has focused primarily on so-called patent trolls, companies whose main activity is threatening to sue businesses over alleged intellectual property violations. To a certain extent, the troll is in the eye of the beholder, and the House bill doesn’t actually define such entities. Instead, it shifts the balance of power in patent disputes to try to discourage abusive behavior. “There are a lot of things in there that make sense, but it would be a mistake to think it’s a surgical attack on patent trolls,” says Florian Mueller, an intellectual-property analyst who advises tech companies.