One in five patent infringement actions in the US is brought by someone not using the patented invention themselves, according to a recent US government study.
Online PR News – 09-September-2013 – Kent – So called “non-practicing entities” were responsible for about 20 per cent of US patent infringement cases between 2007 and 2011, according to a new report by the US Government Accountability Office (GAO).
The nick-name “patent troll” was created to refer to such litigants, who deliberately acquire patents relating to useful technology just so they can squeeze money out of those who use such technology. Many regard patent trolls as a menace because they way they use the patent system may prevent technology reaching the public, which is the opposite of its purpose according to patent attorneys.
Baron Warren Redfern partner Jerry Bridge-Butler said: “It is a shame that so much litigation in the US is brought by non-practicing entities, as it frustrates the purpose of the patent system, which is to reward innovation, and therefore help to bring new technology to the public.
“However, if an invention is good enough to merit a patent then the owner has the right to prevent others using it, and that is fundamental to the system.
“Although the GAO report does not specify the numbers, some of these non-practicing entities may not simply have acquired patents in order to sue for profit. Some may be universities or research institutes which seek to licence their patents rather than exploit them themselves.”
The GAO blamed the lack of clarity of some US patents, and the massive pay-outs sometimes awarded by US courts as the reason why patent trolls act in the way they do.
It said: “Stakeholders knowledgeable in patent litigation identified three key factors that likely contributed to many recent patent infringement lawsuits. First, several stakeholders GAO interviewed said that many such lawsuits are related to the prevalence of patents with unclear property rights; for example, several of these stakeholders noted that software-related patents often had overly broad or unclear claims or both.
“Second, some stakeholders said that the potential for large monetary awards from the courts, even for ideas that make only small contributions to a product, can be an incentive for patent owners to file infringement lawsuits. Third, several stakeholders said that the recognition by companies that patents are a more valuable asset than once assumed may have contributed to recent patent infringement lawsuits.”
The GAO concluded that the US patent office should address the granting of patents with unduly broad claims as a priority. It said: “GAO recommends that the patent office considers examining trends in patent infringement litigation and considers linking this information to internal patent examination data to improve patent quality and examination.”
Baron Warren Redfern patent attorneys specialise in patent and trademark infringement cases in the UK and throughout Europe. BWR can provide chartered trademark and patent attorneys to aid the application process and help register a trademark. Visit the BWR website for more information.