June 5, 2014

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Right of Way

Fighting the Patent Trolls under the Bridge of Innovation

By Dan Sorensen | Illustration by David Habben

June 5, 2014

Spending more resources up front to detail the intricacies of an invention could mean your patent is much more concrete and able to withstand extensive scrutiny.

If it is too late to plan ahead and you are contacted by a patent troll through a cease-and-desist letter or some other means, you should always obtain legal representation. Whether you end up choosing a settlement as an option or decide to take it to court, the U.S. patent system can be fickle, challenging and scary—especially when your business is on the line.

What is a Patent Troll?

In recent years, there has been a lot of scuttlebutt in the news about multi-million dollar patent cases, especially within technology industries. Amidst the commotion, it can be difficult to define what makes a patent troll.

The term was originally coined by legal counsel at Intel, based on the idea that “the troll is a thing that lives under a bridge he has not built and demands a fee from whomever wishes to cross.” Over time, it became a widely used term that is synonymous with anyone asserting a patent against someone else.

While patent trolls do assert patents against other companies, organizations or individuals, not everyone who asserts a patent should be considered a troll.

“Patent troll is a pejorative that originally started out being applied to patent assertion entities that buy up patents they think they can enforce against a bunch of people,” says Rand Bateman, founder of Bateman IP Group. “There are a lot of companies that will use the buzzword ‘patent troll’ to try and discredit or demean a party that is asserting their patent.”

Even legitimate inventors often have to turn to litigation to protect their intellectual property; however that does not make them patent trolls. In this article, patent trolls are considered to be patent assertion entities that sue large numbers of people using patents that might be considered by some to be illegitimate.


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