This bill — the Targeting Rogue and Opaque Letters (TROL) Act — seeks to stop abusive patent letters. Specifically, threatening accusations sent to businesses, claiming that they have violated the rights of a patent holder, but have misleading information or fail to disclose key pieces of patent information.
The people and companies who send the types of letters that this bill targets are known as ‘patent trolls’ — hence, "the TROL Act."
It would be considered an unfair or deceptive practice under the Federal Trade Commission Act if the sender of a letter says — in bad faith — that they have or will take legal action against the letter’s recipient, or they claim to hold the rights to the allegedly infringed patent. If you're not brushed up on your patent law — check out this podcast from This American Life for a refresher.
The letter’s sender also cannot seek compensation for things that happened after a patent expired, or for activities that the sender knew were legal and didn’t infringe the patent. Also, the sender must identify the person who holds the rights to the "infringed patent," specify which patent they're talking about, and what the letter’s recipient did to infringe the patent.
The maximum civil penalty for violating this Act would be $5 million. States would be prevented from bringing an action against a defendant who is the target of a pending federal action brought by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).