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Shining a light under Europe’s patent troll bridge

Troll_Bridge_by_BlazeTwoeThe European Commission’s science and knowledge service, the Joint Research Centre (JRC) carries out research with the aim of providing independent scientific advice and support to EU policies. The JRC has released a Science for Policy Report that looks at “Patent Assertion Entities in Europe”. (more…)

Is it worth suing? – a gambler’s perspective

file000745382336In a previous post (“Before you sue …” of 29 April 2014), I considered the business and other relationships that might rationally inhibit your client from suing for patent infringement, or even making any approach to the infringer.  Now suppose that the client is in fact not so inhibited (and assume also, as in the previous post, that he is not a PAE = patent assertion entity = NPE = non-practising entity = patent troll).  Should legal costs deter your client from suing?  In (for instance) big pharma disputes, both the significance of the infringement and the financial resources of the patent owners are usually such that legal costs are ultimately not a deterrent to litigation.  But if the scale of infringement is moderate – with the client expecting if he wins to gain lowish millions in damages and future royalties – legal costs need careful consideration before litigation is begun. (more…)

Before you sue for patent infringement, or even threaten to …

Court (Small)The above title is perhaps a trap. The word “threat”, leaps to the eye; but be reassured that the author is assuming that any approach to the other side would be couched so as not to be actionable under Section 70 of the UK Patents Act. The point being made is that, even before any such approach is made (let alone before an action is begun), the client needs to reflect.

Unless the client is a patent assertion entity (=PAE=patent troll=non-practising entity=NPE) or, to a degree, a pharmaceutical company or the like, his proposed action or threat of action cannot be considered in isolation from his business more generally. (A PAE has no business to worry about other than threatening or litigating; while in pharmaceuticals and the like, patents and therefore patent litigation are a key part of the business model.) With these exceptions, an immediate concern should be the risk of a countersuit, ie an allegation by the other party that the client infringing one of his patents. In many technical areas, mutual patent awareness is poor between competitors; as a result, the client about to make the threat may be unwittingly infringing a patent of the other party, and the other party may be just as unaware of the latter infringement until, provoked by the threat, he looks for it. (more…)

Patent Trolls – Crisis? What crisis?

Troll_Bridge_by_BlazeTwoeIf you Google (other search engines are available!) the terms “patent troll” and “$29 billion” you’ll find a multitude of articles stating that patent trolls curb innovation and cost the U.S. $29 billion in 2011. You might be forgiven for concluding that there’s a big problem. You’d be right, though not for the reasons you might expect.


The Bridge Inspection Authority – the FTC and “Patent Trolls”

Troll_Bridge_by_BlazeTwoeEveryone in the intellectual property community will be aware that the debate over the activity of “patent trolls” has lasted years, and has always contained plenty of heat and not a lot of light. The heat shows no sign of diminishing, as journalists realise that there’s an easy story to file in a day trip to Tyler or Beaumont to look at a corridor of brass plated doors with no-one behind them – but there are at least some attempts to shine a light under the bridge to see what these trolls really look like. The latest of these is the recently announced proposal for a collection of information by the Federal Trade Commission (the FTC).

There has been little unanimity on what a patent troll is – except than that no definition ever covers the commercial activity of whoever is making the definition. It has even been difficult to find a neutral generic term for such behaviour. We used to use NPE (“Non Practising Entity”), to distinguish patent owners only interested in licensing from patent holders who used patents to support their own commercial activity in selling products and services. This term fell out of use when it was appreciated that one class of NPEs is long established, generally respected, and considered by most to be behaving in an acceptable way with its stock of intellectual property – such NPEs are often known as “universities”.