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Patent Trolls – Crisis? What crisis?

Keltie LLP

K2 IP Limited

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IPcopy is an intellectual property related news site covering a wide variety of IP related news and issues. We will also take the odd lighthearted look at IP. Feel free to contact us via the details on the About Us page. Disclaimer: Unless stated otherwise, the contributors to IPcopy (the "IPcopy writers") are patent and trade mark attorneys or patent and trade mark assistants at Keltie LLP or are network attorneys at K2 IP Limited. Guest contributors will be identified. This news site is the personal site of the contributors and is not edited by the authors' employer in any way. From time to time however IPcopy may publish practice notes, legal updates and marketing news from Keltie LLP or K2 IP Limited. Any such posts will be clearly marked. This news site is for information purposes only. Information posted to this news site is not legal advice and should not be taken as such. If you require IP related legal advice please contact your legal representative.

Troll_Bridge_by_BlazeTwoeIf you Google (other search engines are available!) the terms “patent troll” and “$29 billion” you’ll find a multitude of articles stating that patent trolls curb innovation and cost the U.S. $29 billion in 2011. You might be forgiven for concluding that there’s a big problem. You’d be right, though not for the reasons you might expect.

The $29 billion figure derives from a paper published by Boston University professors James Bessen and Michael Meurer and the conclusions drawn there were eye catching and provocative enough to be re-quoted in nearly every article that seeks to look at the issue of patent trolls (even the White House isn’t immune to regurgitating this figure – see page 9 of the White House Patent Report!). However, if you look a little closer (for example, here, here, here or here) you’ll see evidence that the Bessen & Meurer paper may be flawed with figures that are based on a biased sample, and a dodgy definition of NPE (non-practising entity) amongst other issues. And while we’re looking at numbers let’s be careful that the non-practising entity litigation problem is not overstated as well. As recently as September 2013, articles were quoting a statistic that NPEs were responsible for around 60% of US patent litigation last year. However, the recently published US Government Accountability (GAO) study suggests that, during the period 2000 to 2010, only about a fifth of lawsuits came from NPEs. Let’s hope that as the patent troll/NPE/PAE/acronym soup discussion develops the matter will be debated carefully otherwise we risk rushing to solve a problem that is either poorly defined or which might not even exist.

Mark Richardson 17 October 2013

The above article was first published on the 2 Paragraphs website (As the name suggests all posts to the 2 Paragraphs site are two paragraphs in length!). The original version of the article can be found here and I note that the IPcopy version has been modified ever so slightly from the originally published article.


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