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Patent trolls are taking center stage in Congress this week, with new legislation in the Senate to curb abusive patent litigation and a markup Wednesday of a similar bill in the House of Representatives.

Sens. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Mike Lee (R-Utah) unveiled their plan to battle patent trolls, also known as patent assertion entities (PAEs), on Monday, two days before the House Judiciary Committee is scheduled to vote on its own patent lawsuit reform bill from panel chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.).

Leahy, the Senate Judiciary Committee’s chairman, thanked Goodlatte for his work on the issue. The senator said in a statement that he is working with his colleagues in Congress to create “effective legislation that will help innovators and inventors succeed.”

“The bipartisan legislation I am introducing today takes important steps to protect those who are targeted by patent trolls while preserving what has made America’s patent system great,” Leahy said.

In some ways, the Patent Transparency and Improvements Act from Leahy and Lee and the Innovation Act [PDF] from Goodlatte, have similar strategies to curb patent abuse.

Both bills strengthen pleading requirements to bring more transparency to who is alleging infringement and who has a financial interest in the case. They also have provisions to protect intellectual property in bankruptcies.

But the Senate measure stayed away from some of the sweeping changes to the patent system that are included in the House bill. For example, the Senate legislation does not wade into changes to the fee-shifting provisions that call for the litigation’s loser to pay for high-cost patent fights, or propose new rules about discovery that have drawn opposition from the federal judiciary.

The Senate bill also addresses patent troll demand letters, which claim patent infringement due to the use of a product or service and call for a payment from the end-user to avoid litigation. The legislation explains that sending the letters is an unfair and deceptive act that could face an enforcement action from the Federal Trade Commission. The measure, however, wouldn’t establish a demand letter registry, as requested by tech lawyers.

The White House has signaled its support for the Senate legislation. Gene Sperling, director of President Barack Obama’s National Economic Council, said Monday in a statement to The Hill that the bill is “a big step in the right direction.”

Obama announced in June that his administration would take an active role in combating patent trolls through legislation and executive action.

“The bill addresses many common-sense reforms we called for in June, including making patent ownership more transparent, better protecting end-users from troll lawsuits, and undercutting abusive use of demand letters,” Sperling said.

Todd Ruger contributed to this report.

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