Study: Patent trolls file 40% of all patent suits

Patent Suit Analysis

A new study confirms what we’ve all suspected based on anecdotal evidence: Suits filed by patent trolls have gone way up over the past few years. As Ars Technica reports, the new study headed up by UC Hastings law professor Robin Feldman used data from Stanford Law’s Lex Machina intellectual property database and found that “the fraction of lawsuits filed by troll-like entities grew from 22 percent in 2007 to 40 percent in 2011.”

Defining what constitutes a “patent troll” is always tricky, of course, and Feldman’s study defines them as “entities whose primary focus is deriving income from licensing and litigation as opposed to making products.” But even if reasonable people can quibble with Feldman’s definition, the increase in litigation filed by such entities is so large that it’s impossible to overlook.

Ars Technica also writes that the study may actually underestimate the impact of patent trolls on the tech industry since “anecdotal evidence suggests only a small fraction of troll threats ever lead to lawsuits” and “in most cases, targets settle without going to trial.”

“From all appearances, lawsuits filed are only the tip of the iceberg, and a major operating company may face hundreds of invitations to license for every lawsuit,” the study says.

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