I get asked a lot of questions about so called patent trolls. The term brings to mind connotations of evil lurking where no one can see it and then springing out to catch people unawares.
So what is a patent troll?
One definition is that patent trolls are “non-practicing entities” (NPEs) that do not directly use the patents they own to produce goods, but rather license them to other companies that do. Critics call these NPEs “patent trolls” because they often acquire patent rights just so they can use them to extract licensing fees. In fact some of these entities are traded on the open market.
So, is being a “patent troll” a bad idea or good business? There are two sides (at least) to every story.
According to a study by the Boston University School of Law, patent trolls cost the country’s top tech companies an estimated $29 billion last year. The study contends that the rise in opportunistic patent litigation is stifling innovation and harming inventors.
On the other hand, almost every major company in existence could be considered a patent troll. Every television that is sold must obtain licenses from patent owners or they cannot be sold. Every smartphone, cellphone and tablet also pays major companies “royalties” for using their patented technology.
But these companies are not considered patent trolls. The argument is that NPE’s shouldn’t be able to collect royalties on their patents. But Kodak collected 92 million dollars for software it didn’t produce. Microsoft is notoriously going after Linux distributions to collect royalties to insure that they don’t infringe on many, unidentified patents in Microsoft’s portfolio. Yet, these companies, and many others like them, aren’t identified as patent trolls.
No matter what side you are on, patent litigation is on the rise. Lawsuits have increased dramatically over the past several years, from $6.7 billion in 2005 to $12.6 billion in 2008 and more than $29.2 billion in 2011, according to the study.
How Can I Help?
If you need help to defend yourself from a patent lawsuit, or help to enforce your patent rights, or know someone that can use my help, please contact me for a free 30 minute consultation by sending me an email or call TOLL FREE at 1-855-UR IDEAS (1-855-874-3327) and ask for Norman.
– Ex astris, scientia –
I am and avid amateur astronomer and intellectual property attorney. As a former Chief Petty Officer in the U.S. Navy, I am a proud member of the Armed Service Committee of the Los Angeles County Bar Association working to aid all active duty and veterans in our communities. Connect with me on Google +