Lawmakers are considering proposals to stop so-called "patent trolls." They say people who fraudulently collect fines under the guise of protecting intellectual property are hurting small businesses.
"Patent trolls" and their lesser-known cousins, "copyright trolls," basically search for opportunities to make money by claiming someone has used a protected idea without permission.
Rep. Ann Williams (D-Chicago) says many businesses would rather pay the "fine" a patent troll asks for, rather than fight back in court alone.
"The patent trolls have really taken advantage of small businesses that don't have the financial resources to hire a legal team to fight off these patent challenges," she said.
Often, she says, the person or entity accusing a business of patent infringement doesn't even have the rights to that patent, and count on the fear of their targets.
Williams says the plan would give the Illinois attorney general more power to prosecute patent trolls.
A related plan in the Illinois House is intended to crack down on people who falsely allege copyright infringement.