Bad Times for Patent Trolls: What the Government Is Doing to Protect Small Businesses

Patent assertion entities—‘‘PAEs’’ or, if you are in a bad mood, ‘‘patent trolls’’—have been around in one form or another for decades. In the past few years, however, their ranks have grown. According to a U.S. Government Accountability Office Report released last year, patent infringement lawsuits rose 129 percent from 2007 to 2011, with a 31 percent increase in 2011 alone. Patent trolls account for most of these lawsuits, having filed 67 percent of new patent cases in 2013.

Perhaps the most significant development in patent infringement lawsuits is their changing target, as their reach expands past Silicon Valley’s high-tech campuses to Main Street. In 2012, patent trolls sued more nontech companies than tech companies, according to Patent Freedom, which provides market intelligence on patent trolls. This includes small businesses using office equipment as common as document scanners.

Originally published in BNA’s Patent, Trademark & Copyright Journal, 88 PTCJ 218, 5/16/14.

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