Patent trolls, much like regular trolls, are known for running around making nuisances of themselves. But could they be an antitrust problem?

Some in-house counsel think so, and told U.S. lawmakers as much at a hearing on Thursday, Thomson Reuters reports.

Trolls are companies whose whole purpose of being is to buy up patents, then file infringement lawsuits or demand licensing fees for those patents. Defending against these suits costs corporations millions of dollars per year.

Rep. Howard Coble of North Carolina, chair of the House subcommittee on intellectual property, questioned witnesses at the hearing about whether the government should invoke antitrust law to help deal with the copious amount of patent suits.

Both J.C. Penney Co. Inc. General Counsel Janet Dhillon and Cisco Systems Inc. General Counsel Mark Chandler responded affirmatively.

“The patent aggregation efforts deserve very close antitrust scrutiny,” Chandler said. “They have the impact across whole industries of forcing settlements (of patent suits) and suppressing competition in ways that are not intended as part of the patent grant.”

The Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission held a joint public workshop in December to consider this issue, and are taking public comment until April 5.


Read more about patent trolls on InsideCounsel:

IP: Federal Circuit weakens Internet patent troll model

Majority of patent lawsuits brought by trolls

Technology: Can you learn to love a troll?

IP: A boon for patent trolls

Patent trolls may have to pay legal costs