Patent Trolling Has Been Crazy Profitable, But Thanks To Supreme Court, New Lawsuits Are Declining

from the a-good-early-sign dept

There’s some new data out about patent lawsuits that paint an interesting picture. First, the law firm Goodwin Procter put out a new manual for fighting patent trolls (found via GigaOm), showing that patent trolling has been immensely profitable. It shows how the median damages awarded to trolls has been much higher than to operating companies, which is the exact opposite of what you’d think it should be — companies that are actually competing in the space have at least a slightly more legitimate claim than those simply setting up toll booths. But it’s the trolls who get rewarded:

It’s worth noting that even this chart significantly underplays things, since very few patent trolling efforts actually reach court in the first place. Many, many companies just pay up when threatened, and many more settle after cases have been filed rather than actually allowing a trial to reach conclusion and have damages awarded (if any).

But… that all may be changing. We’ve been writing a lot about how the Supreme Court’s ruling in Alice v. CLS Bank had resulted in the courts rapidly invalidating a bunch of crappy software patents, and that may be taking a toll. Legal analytics firm Lex Machina has been crunching the numbers and noticed a significant and noticeable drop off in September patent lawsuit filings. Historically, there’s usually a summer lull in patent lawsuit filings, but they pick back up in September (back to school patent trolling!). And, each year the number of patent filings in September keeps going up and up and up. In 2011, there were 385 patent lawsuits filed in September, and in 2012, it was 460. In 2013, it was 548. And yet, here in 2014, there were just 329 cases filed in September, a noticeable drop. Lex Machina has a bunch of charts showing the data, but this one is the most telling to me:

You can see a bunch of lawsuits rushed to get filed prior to the Supreme Court hearing the case, and then a pretty steady stream over the summer. As we’ve noted, right when the ruling came out, it wasn’t entirely clear how far reaching it would be — but within about a month people began to realize that it really was going to invalidate a large number of bad patents, and then the lawsuits started dropping rapidly. It will be interesting to see how this plays out over the rest of the year.

Filed Under: ,
Companies: alice, cls bank, lex machina

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