Patent lawsuits now dominated by trolls

For the first time, individuals and companies that do not themselves make anything – commonly known as “patent trolls” – are bringing the majority of U.S. patent lawsuits, according to a study by a California law professor.

The sharp increase in this type of lawsuit serves as a milestone likely to exacerbate the tension over patent issues and increase calls for patent reform and scrutiny of the system.

This year, about 61 percent of all patent lawsuits filed through December 1 were brought by patent-assertion entities, or individuals and companies that work aggressively and opportunistically to assert patents as a business model rather than build their own technology, according to a paper by Colleen Chien, a law professor at Santa Clara University.

That compares with 45 percent in 2011 and 23 percent five years ago.

“It’s pretty dramatic,” Chien told Reuters via email. “It means more suits are being brought by entities that don’t make anything than those that do.”

Many in Silicon Valley deride patent-assertion entities as “patent trolls.” The unflattering nickname arose because of their habit of suddenly demanding licensing fees from unsuspecting businesses, much like mythical trolls that lie in wait under bridges to extract tolls from travelers…

Many technology companies are eager for reforms that would make it harder to assert patents. Some would like to see the cost of asserting patents rise, for example. Many patent holders sue based on contingency, meaning they pay only if they win an award.

Blogging about the topic is on the increase, as well. Another symptom of the resentment most geeks and ordinary citizens feel towards the creeps. No doubt some of them aren’t creeps. It’s their own responsibility to differentiate themselves from the creeps, I guess.

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