The Dark Patent Troll Rises: Now 40% Of All Patent Litigation
from the leeches dept
With story upon story upon story (upon story) of how patent trolls, those non-producing entities that derive income solely through litigation and threat thereof, are enormous leeches on innovation and progress, you may have noticed something. You possibly thought to yourself, “it sure seems like we’re hearing more about these vampiric bastards these days”. Guess what? You are, because there’s more of them. Vastly more.
According to a recent study by Robin Feldman of UC Hastings College of Law and Lex Machina, the percentage of patent cases finding their way to court jumped from 22% in 2007 to 40% in 2011. Note that the following graph is a corrected graph issued after the initial report by the authors.
The study was inspired by the America Invents Act, last year’s largely toothless overhaul of the patent system. In it, Congress asked the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to study the impact of non-practicing entities—a more clinical term for patent trolls—on the economy. Because Lex Machina already had a database of patent litigation, the GAO asked it to produce a random sample of 100 patent lawsuits for each year from 2007 to 2011. In addition to supplying the GAO with the data it needed for its forthcoming study, Lex Machina decided to publish its own interpretations of the sample.
As the Ars Technica piece notes, that shocking statistic above doesn’t even tell the whole story. When you consider that patent litigation as a total has jumped in volume, coupled with the number/percentage of patent troll threats settling well outside of the courtroom, experts figure that the size of the patent troll leeches are roughly double the size of your average adult kraken.
“From all appearances, lawsuits filed are only the tip of the iceberg (editors note: kraken-sized leeches often hide under iceberg tips), and a major operating company may face hundreds of invitations to license for every lawsuit,” the authors write.
The America Invents Act was enacted in the final months of the study period. And there was at least one minor change designed to deter troll behavior: the law made it harder to name many defendants in a single lawsuit. But the law’s main provisions, such as the switch from a “first to invent” rule to “first to file” is unlikely to affect the volume of troll litigation.
Hell, this all sounds like promoting the progress to me. That, or some flavor of patent abuse. Surely it’s one of the two…