Intellectual Property

Patent Abuse Hits Congressional Agenda

The economy is taking a hit from trolls who buy up patents and sit on them

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The Congressional Research Service (CRS), the research division of Congress known for its objective studies, recently released a report on the effects of patent trolls on innovation and the economy. The studypresents a pretty thorough analysis of the patent troll problem, but what's striking is its existence at all: Could it be that Congress is really starting to pay attention when it comes to fixing the broken patent system?

Patent trolls are litigious entities that don't usually create new products or come up with new ideas. Instead, they buy up patents and use them offensively. Armed with often overbroad and vague patents, the trolls send out threatening letters to those they argue are infringing. According to the CRS report, "The vast majority of defendants settle because patent litigation is risky, disruptive, and expensive, regardless of the merits; and many [patent trolls] set royalty demands strategically well below litigation costs to make the business decision to settle an obvious one." Businesses lose both time and money, and innovation suffers.