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Patent Trolls and Patent Litigation: The GAO Weighs In

September 6, 2013
Patent troll litigation alarmist were likely disappointed by the GAO report.  While the public discourse may have already concluded that patent trolls have laid waste to the innovative landscape by creating a patent litigation crisis, the GAO report does not find much evidence to support such claims.

Patent troll litigation is not running rampant.  The GAO analyzed a sample of 500 patent infringement lawsuits from 2007 to 2011 and found that companies that make products (operating companies) brought most of the suits, while patent monetization entities (PME/patent trolls) brought only about 19%.

Further, the inherent ambiguity between patent trolls and legitimate patentees makes it difficult to craft legislative ‘fixes’ that solely target patent trolls. All manner of other legitimate patentees will likely get caught up in proposed legislative provisions that would systematically raise the cost and risk of patent enforcement.

The current highly-energized public narrative about patent trolls may benefit from some cooling-off. There is nothing in the GAO report that requires Congress to rush in before the dust has even settled on the major reforms adopted in 2011's American Invents Act.