Patent trolls certainly soak up a great amount of attention from both the media and the government. The White House has issued executive orders aimed at stemming the tide of abusive patent litigation and Congress has also considered passing reforms aimed at stopping patent trolls. Though current efforts have stalled, there is often much ado about nothing in Washington, so one might wonder if the patent troll problem really is a prominent one.
Turns out, it is.
A new study from PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) gives data to indicate that the patent troll problem is getting worse. Overall patent litigation figures may be down, but statistics related to troll suits have spiked.
Over the past four years, median damages awarded in patent suits were $4.3 million, a figure that was down slightly in 2013. But patent trolls received median awards that were nearly three times that number. Also, patent troll suits now account for two-thirds of all patent infringement cases filed. This is a considerable increase from five years ago, when patent troll suits made up 28 percent of all filings. Only 20 percent of decisions in 2013 involved patent trolls, which would indicate that a majority of the filed cases were settled or dismissed.
Settlements are a key strategy in the patent troll business model, as trolls were only successful in 25 percent of filings in 2013, while non-troll companies involved in patent litigation were successful 35 percent of the time.
Overall, patent infringement cases increased 25 percent in 2013 to over 6,500 filings, a record. This corresponds with an increase in the grant of patents, up 7 percent to close to 300,000 granted patents.