Patent Trolls and their Impact on Businesses: A Legal Perspective

Patent Trolls and their Impact on Businesses: A Legal Perspective


Patent trolls, also known as non-practicing entities (NPEs), are companies that acquire patents for the sole purpose of suing other companies for infringement. These companies do not produce any products or services themselves but instead rely on the legal system to extract money from those who do. The impact of patent trolls on businesses can be significant and can lead to increased legal costs, decreased innovation, and even bankruptcy. This article will explore the legal perspective of patent trolls and their impact on businesses.

The Legal Perspective

Patent trolls are legal entities and have the right to enforce their patents. However, their business model is often seen as abusive, as they do not contribute to innovation or the economy but instead rely on legal threats to extract money from others. The legal system has attempted to address this issue through various means.

One way the legal system has addressed patent trolls is through the creation of the America Invents Act (AIA) of 2011. The AIA created a new process for challenging patents, called inter partes review (IPR). This process allows businesses to challenge the validity of a patent in front of a panel of judges at the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). This process has been successful in reducing the number of lawsuits brought by patent trolls.

Another way the legal system has attempted to address patent trolls is through fee-shifting. Fee-shifting is a legal provision that allows the prevailing party in a lawsuit to recover their legal fees from the losing party. This provision has been used to deter patent trolls from bringing frivolous lawsuits, as they may be required to pay the legal fees of the defendant if they lose.

The Impact on Businesses

The impact of patent trolls on businesses can be significant. Patent trolls often target small businesses that cannot afford to defend themselves in court. The cost of litigation can be significant, and even if the defendant wins, they may still have to pay substantial legal fees. This can lead to decreased innovation, as small businesses may be hesitant to invest in new ideas if they fear being sued by a patent troll.

In addition to the financial impact, patent trolls can also have a negative impact on a business’s reputation. Being sued by a patent troll can be seen as a sign of weakness or vulnerability, which can lead to decreased customer confidence and decreased sales.

Patent trolls can have a significant impact on businesses, both financially and reputationally. While the legal system has taken steps to address this issue, patent trolls still exist and can still cause harm. Businesses should be aware of the risks associated with patent trolls and take steps to protect themselves, such as investing in patent insurance or participating in industry-wide patent pools. Ultimately, a combination of legal and business solutions may be necessary to effectively address the issue of patent trolls.

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