Many of us learned the story of “Billy Goats Gruff” as children, the story of three goats that had to outsmart a troll that lived under a bridge and gobbled up all who crossed it. Senator McCaskill is leading an investigation into how some real trolls work.

“Patent trolls,” they are called, and they’re not loathsome creatures living beneath the bridge. McCaskill says they’re scam artists who apparently rake in millions of dollars from small businesses. She says “hundreds of thousands” of businesses have been approached and have faced demands for licensing fees. And the only alternative is to hire a lawyer to investigate the demands. She says many businesses pay the fee becuase it’s less than the cost of the lawyer.

She calls people behind those efforts “bottom feeders” who have created a nationwide cottage industry. McCaskill says her consumer protection subcommittee will try to determine how lucrative the scam has become. She says those practices undermine the health of small business, which she calls “the engine of our economy.”

McCaskill says the patent trolls work across state lines, which draws the Federal Trade Commission into the discussion. The FTC has jurisdiction over deceptive trade practices. Its officials will be among those testifying before the subcommittee today.

McCaskill comments 2:00