Pay the Troll Toll: The Patent Troll Model Is Fundamentally at Odds with the Patent System’s Goal of Innovation and Competition

December 1, 2015

Patent litigation has multiplied sixfold since the 1980s, with the last few years seeing an unprecedented number of patent lawsuits. When an inventor receives a patent, the U.S. Constitution grants him a monopoly for a limited number of years to reward him for his investment of time and resources and to incentivize him to continue innovating, which ultimately benefits society. However, the emergence of a litigious character, deemed the “patent troll,” has led to the patent system’s hindrance of innovation, a result that is at odds with the primary goal of patent law. Patent trolls exploit weaknesses in the patent system in a number of manners: they assert overly broad patents to force companies into financial settlements because these companies cannot afford the cost of litigation; they deter innovative companies from investing in research and development through the threat of litigation; and they do not practice the patents they hold, thus contributing no innovation in the advancement of technology and immunizing themselves from countersuit. In addition, trolls exhibit anticompetitive behavior, a trend that has caught the eye of the Federal Trade Commission. This Note provides a survey of the modern patent landscape, addressing certain areas of the patent system that patent trolls are able to use to their advantage. This Note then advocates that the Federal Trade Commission play a more integral role in curbing anticompetitive troll behavior and proposes several methods of patent reform.

December 2015

No. 3