While the phrase "patent troll" is not technically correct, it has become synonymous with a business model that is almost universally loathed. Companies that are created as a front and used to buy up patents and then extort, for lack of a better word, money from smaller businesses -- typically ones they feel they can push around for an easy and quick profit. Unfortunately the tactic works in many cases as those facing litigation can't afford to fight and end up settling to save money.
This practice has brought about a cry for reform of the patent system, which many feel is irrevocably broken. Now Congress is listening and today the Electronic Frontier Foundation will take center stage to plead its side of the argument.
An attorney for the organization is set to speak. "Armed with vague and overbroad patents that never should have issued, patent trolls pressure small businesses to pay unjustifiable licensing fees. Businesses receiving these demand letters often lack the resources to fight back or to coordinate with others faced with similar demands. In her testimony Thursday, [Vera] Ranieri will urge Congress to enact measures to protect small businesses from abusive and deceptive demand letters, including enacting disclosure requirements that would help both lawmakers and the public to understand the damage patent trolls do to America's economy", the EFF announces (opens in new tab).
This isn't a new fight for the EFF, it has been going after what it calls "bad patents and abuse of the system" for sometime now. The organization has been gathering information for more than two years in an effort to gain reform.
Things are hardly likely to be decided today -- the wheels of congress turn slowly and sometimes seem to spin in place. There is also the specter of campaign backers with deep pockets and influence. However, at least the EFF is being given its chance.