Almost all in-house counsel for technology companies and companies that use technology in their business have grappled with patent risk—non-practicing entities (NPE)-based patent risk, in particular—over the past 10 or so years. I’m no exception. I spent eight years at Cisco Systems where I was the VP of worldwide IP and, being a technology bellwether, Cisco was among the early companies to bear the brunt of NPE assertions. In 2012, more than 2,400 different companies were defendants in at least one NPE suit (and 270 were defendants in three or more suits), but a dozen years ago, NPEs were a fairly new phenomenon and assertion letters were relatively rare.
Even back then, for some of us in Silicon Valley, these suits were becoming frequent enough to qualify as a trend, and the associated legal battles were becoming costly enough to qualify as a real operational risk. However, many of us in corporate legal departments did not have access to operational ways to solve the problem, nor did we come from such a background. So we turned to what we did know and what we thought we could influence—laws and legislation.