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A shaky future for small entities in patents

Research shows that smaller businesses and non-profit groups will only have more hurdles to jump in the future years of U.S. patent law given Congress' latest proposals

Obtaining and asserting patents is a necessity for any business big or small seeking to retain control of its intellectual property, but complications in U.S. patent process — and, in part, the legislation thereof — have made it more difficult for smaller businesses. Those typically larger companies and groups that are linked with consistent and virulent pursuit of preserving their patents — otherwise known as "patent trolls" — seemingly hinder the process of innovation for others. And a recent study from IP researchers examines the role of patent legislation moving forward for "small entity patent filers" in regards to their new challenges with the U.S. Congress' proposals.

The role of the patent troll in effectively blocking small- to medium-sized businesses from obtaining and exercising patents is one that creates difficult IP realities for such companies, but is also excessively aggrandized by the media. Technology companies have been aggressive in the patent spotlight over the last year, particularly big names like Apple and Samsung, for spending too much of their budgets on patent "trolling" litigation instead of research and development. But whether or not the patent trolls are having a real impact on SMBs is still a matter of market research.

The researchers note that "Congress imminently appears to be positioned to pass any legislation to control the so-called 'troll' problem without waiting for any further objective studies on the problem, where the patents so-called 'trolls' come from, or on how small patent entities are weathering Congress’ last changes to the patent law, that is the so-called ‘America Invents Act.’” 

Small entities including universities, research groups, non-profits, and the like will likely have their work cut out for them in the coming years of pending U.S. patent legislation. Thus far it has been a rocky road for SMBs and other companies less-stocked with dependent and fruitful cash flow. If such research pans out, the future gap between the big guys and the small guys for patents will only widen.


Further reading:

Vermont attorney general brings aggressive stance to patent trolls

Massachusetts Attorney General latest to take on patent trolls

Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning to talk patent trolls at upcoming roundtable

Contributing Author

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Juliana Kenny

Juliana Kenny is a contributor to, covering a range of topics including patent litigation, conflict mineral laws, executive compensation, and antitrust regulation. Juliana earned B.A.s...

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