Patent law protects the unique inventions of American individuals and businesses. Unfortunately, some people abuse the power to sue for patent infringement, forcing honest businesses to defend themselves and costing them time and money.
These individuals are known as “patent trolls.” This rather negative term suggests how dishonest their litigation is. Patent trolls essentially use patent law to turn a profit.
Instead of competing in any particular business, patent trolls buy patents from other companies, often ones that are in need of cash. Often, these patents are vague and cover a wide range of products or technologies.
After collecting patents this way, trolls then sue, or threaten to sue, other businesses the troll claims is infringing on one of the troll’s patents. Even when the troll’s case is weak, few businesses want to engage in a lengthy, complex court battle. So many businesses that get sued by a patent troll end up quickly settling, or agreeing to pay a “license fee.” This give the troll the cash they need to move on to their next victim.
These trolls frequently target small businesses and new businesses that rely on patent protection to keep their unique products. Besides crippling small business, many observers say that patent trolls hamstring innovation. How many new products have not come to market, for fear a patent troll will sue based on an overly broad patent?
Fortunately, an experienced intellectual property attorney can help defend your business if a patent troll ever targets you, often letting you avoid litigation.