back to article Trolls and their ilk now file majority of patent suits

A study into the current state of patent litigation has shown that for the first time the majority of disputes have been brought by companies that predominantly hold and license patents rather than producing goods with them. Research by law professor Colleen Chien at Silicon Valley's Santa Clara University showed that in 2012 …


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  1. The Alpha Klutz

    i dont think a patent system is fair

    anyone can invent say... the lightbulb. several people did. not just the guy who patented it. so shut the fuck up,

    1. The Alpha Klutz

      Re: i dont think a patent system is fair

      the patent system rewards those who know how to manipulate complex bureaucratic systems: psychopaths are especially good at this. That explains why people like Thomas Edison get patents and why they love them so much.

      1. The Alpha Klutz

        Re: i dont think a patent system is fair

        its a good old boy club basically. i promise you, the number of things I've "invented" that appeared in the shops later, if i was a psychopath with a patent lawyer, I would be rich by now, I assure you.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: i dont think a patent system is fair

        To me, there is no difference between these patent trolls going from company to company and demanding damages (extortion) and organized crime going from business to business demanding protection payments. Too bad that governments don't see this

    2. PatientOne

      Re: i dont think a patent system is fair

      If you are patenting something, it should be quantified and qualified, not some vague description that could be applied to a hundred things that don't yet exist. A patent should only apply to inventions, not ideas: Then it would be possible to protect innovation rather than fleece it.

      As to if a patent system is fair: Yes, it is. Not as it stands in the US right now, but the concept is fair. Or do you think that it's fine for someone to invest millions in developing a new form of highly efficient engine only to have their main rival produce a clone of it having invested nothing into the R&D and so are able to undercut the inventor because they don't have to recoup the development costs?

      Where two or more groups are working on the same idea, then a shared patent might be the answer: If all of them can show they were researching said lightbulb then each one should get shared protection, and a share in any royalties if the patent earns any. To qualify for a patent share, there would have to be proof of parallel development, which can be achieved by time/date stamping copies of notes and filing them with a lawyer or third party. Shares in the patent might then be allocated based on progress, where such progress has reached a certain point, such as a working model and a clear path to marketable goods.

      That is why a patent system should be for: To allow the inventors to recoup their costs and so encourage further innovation. Shame what we have is so easy to abuse.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Protecting innovation

    "A fifth of start-ups that have raised $20m to $50m in funding have been sued for patent violation, and this rose to over a third for those who have up to $100m in funding."

    Yep. The patent system is doing a sterling job there in protecting innovation.

  3. JeevesMkII

    Seems like an easy fix.

    Requiring the defendant to have a product in the market using the claimed innovation in order to defend a patent seems like almost a no-brainer. Patents are supposed to protect a company's innovations, not let them extract rents from other companies who are actually doing the innovating.

    If you were feeling especially reform-minded, then it would be amusing to make it so both the inventor and assignee had to agree to transfer the rights to a patent to another party. That would probably go a long way to preventing trolls picking up patents from bankrupt companies.

    1. Thorne

      Re: Seems like an easy fix.

      In Australia, you cannot patent an idea once it's in the market. You need the patents in place before you sell.

      The way to fix it is to stop the transfering of the rights to own. You can sell and transfer the rights to use but not the rights to own. This way trolls cannot buy up patents for the sole purpose of suing everyone.

      It doesn't however solve the problem of troll companies patenting ideas that they will never make so they can sue people who do make it.

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

    2. Anonymous Coward

      Re: Seems like an easy fix.


      After 30 years of work, I've just invented a portable cold fusion device. To build a working device based on my details will cost £10m for the 1st prototype.

      So now what?

      A) Hand over plans to megacorp and get screwed over?

      B) Throw plans in bin

      c) Give lifetime work away free?

      1. Thorne

        Re: Seems like an easy fix.


        After 30 years of work, I've just invented a portable cold fusion device. To build a working device based on my details will cost £10m for the 1st prototype.

        So now what?

        A) Hand over plans to megacorp and get screwed over?

        B) Throw plans in bin

        c) Give lifetime work away free?"


        d) go onto Kickstarter and crowdsource

        e) find some investors

        Whats the point of havinging an investion that you cannot realise? Great you have a patent for cold fusion, now either make it or get out of the way and let someone else. Don't patent the idea and sit there screwing everyone else who tries.

      2. MacGyver


        Re: Seems like an easy fix.

        If it costs £10m just for a proof of concept device, how would you even be sure that it would work? To be as sure as you seem, you should have already built many smaller devices that show a proof of concept or at least the evolution of your design, and those smaller build up devices should be sufficient . I'm not sure that the number of people that could design and built a large hadron collider from scratch by themselves in one sitting without prior prototypes is a large enough number to justify not requiring submitters to include a prototype.

        Imagine how stupid Apple would look going into the patent office with a square block of wood with rounded corners, and trying to get a patent on that alone. I can hear it now;

        Apple: "You know, for kids!"

        Patent Clerk: "Next!"

        (if the reference is too obscure, it is referring to a scene in the Hudsucker Proxy where Tim Robbins' character is trying to describe a drawing of a hula-hoop to a patent clerk).

  4. Anonymous Coward

    That's not a troll icon I am using....

    It's my best attempt at a "surprised face" upon hearing this news....

  5. Rambler88

    First thing we do...

    And you can bet that a bunch of law firms are actively recruiting plaintiffs with promises of easy money. Probably many of those firms also defend such suits. What goes around, comes around.

  6. JimC

    In a world of outsourcing

    Who's suprised?

    Its just another form of outsourcing. Do the research, flog it off, take the money and get on with the next bit of research rather than have to employ the parasites^h^hh^h^h^h^h^h lawyers yourself.

  7. PassiveSmoking
    Thumb Down

    Stick a fork in the patent system

    It's done.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Just shoot the lawyers

      Job done,,,

      1. AceRimmer

        Re: Just shoot the lawyers

        Done and Done

        You did mean ALL lawyers right?

  8. John Latham

    I don't understand the specific problem with patent trolls

    If software patents were a socially/economically useful thing then companies which exist solely to fully exploit those patents could not be a bad thing.

    To kill the software patent troll we must kill software patents. All of them. Or at least match the patent lifespan to the speed of technology development so that all obvious crap will permanently expire within a handful of years.

    I don't buy the story pedaled by Google et al that they're just victims of a broken system forced to fight against their will.

    1. MacGyver
      IT Angle

      Re: I don't understand the specific problem with patent trolls

      I think software is better protected by copyright more than by patents, no one person/company should be the only one that can create a program that "Displays words on a display screen.", however, you should not be able to just "cut and paste" one persons code for doing so into your device either. The current system is supposed to allow everyone the ability to come up with their own way to do it, but protect the specific code created by one person/company.

      The problem is that companies file numerous purposely obscure patents in the hopes that a few get through the overloaded patent office, and when they do, they sit and wait for a company to do something similar, wait for them to make money, then sue in an attempt to extort said money. Or larger companies will use their obscure patents to lock-out competing companies ( ie. "slide to unlock"). Remember when Creative was suing EVERYONE that made MP3 players because some dumbass patent clerk gave them a patent for "an electronic device that plays music selected from a menu." or some such rubbish.

  9. Tikimon

    System not broken, but IS being abused!

    The patent system, like most other laws, is FINE. The problem is the misuse of patents encouraged by greedy lawyers and allowed by stupid judges. They all make money on litigation, so they encourage this crap.

    One can compare to the failure of civil law such as when idiots burn themselves on hot coffee and win damage awards. These are judgements for cases that should have been laughed out of court in the first place! When Apple vs. Humanity is filed to sue for unlicensed use of rectangles, the judicial reply should be crushing fines for wasting the court's time.

    Another critical FAIL was allowing "business methods" and software to be patented. These are clearly not within the scope of the patent system's intent. Get rid of them and sanity returns, competition happens and the Little Guy/Gal inventor has a chance again.

    Fat chance, yah...

    1. Thorne

      Re: System not broken, but IS being abused!

      The American patent system also allows the patenting of genes so a company can find the gene for a cancer and then screw anyone who tries to make a cure.

      1. MacGyver

        Re: Thorne

        If they were required to have a prototype for a patent, we would already have a cure.

        People make it sound like if they can't have a "protection" on their investment in research they wouldn't even try. Ok, so only universities, non-profits, and government-funded labs would be working on it, and that is bad why?

        Why are pharma companies not required to "race to the cure" to get paid like the rest of the world. Just because you found correlation between one gene and people with diabetes doesn't mean you have the ability to develop a method by which to cure it. If you give anyone a large enough sampling of decoded genomes and the aliments suffered by their owners, anyone can pick out the likely genes that cause them, it doesn't mean that you're right, or that you cured it, or that you even understand it. What happens when a company DOES create a cure for diabetes, but then realizes how much that would cut into their insulin business, so they decide to not make it available. Are there laws to prevent this? If not, then why not?

        If people honestly believe the only reason for researching a cure for cancer is money, then there is a lot more wrong with our society than just the patent office. Why do we even allow people to make unlimited profits off of anything related to relieving human suffering in the first place?

        1. Thorne

          Re: Thorne

          Patents should only cover inventions, not discoveries

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