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ITC launches pilot program to cut down on patent troll suits

A new program will soon require companies to prove they have well-established U.S. production, licensing, and research before being able to bring a patent case before the commission.

The International Trade Commission is looking to curb the amount of cases it gets from patent trolls.

According to Reuters, the commission said Monday that it plans to start requiring companies to prove they are well established in the U.S. before they file patent infringement complaints. Currently, companies don't have to prove this until after the case is over.

This requirement will come via a pilot program launched by the ITC that is led by its six administrative judges. These judges will determine whether companies suing over patent infringements have sufficient U.S. production, licensing, and research to be able to use the court, according to Reuters.

Theoretically, if companies don't meet the judges' standards for adequate U.S. productions, they won't be able to use the ITC to litigate their complaints.

"Addressing this will require more than administrative fixes, but the pilot program is a step forward that could help limit costly and unnecessary patent cases," ITC Working Group executive director Matt Tanielian told Reuters.

The percentage of patent infringement lawsuits filed by patent assertion entities, or patent trolls, has increased dramatically in the past few years. According to a study conducted last year by a patent law professor in California, about 62 percent of all patent lawsuits filed in 2012 were brought by PAEs, up from about 29 percent two years earlier.

Earlier this month, President Obama announced five executive actions and seven proposed legislative changes that, among other things, instructed the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to initiate a rule-making process that would require patent holders to disclose the owner of a patent.

The Federal Trade Commission also proposed an investigation last week that would require patent-holding companies to answers questions related to how they conduct business, including whether their lawsuits are coordinated with other patent-holding companies.

Patents and intellectual-property protection have become an increasingly important topic in technology, with companies building up massive patent collections to fend off, as well as go on the offensive against other companies. Most recently there's been the high-profile feud between Apple and Samsung, with the two companies suing each other in courts around the world for patent infringement. There have also been the spats between Google and Oracle, and Apple and HTC.

According to Reuters, the ITC pilot program has been applauded by the ITC Working Group, which has representatives from Cisco, Google, Hewlett Packard, Intel, and Oracle.