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Unified Patents & RPX Weigh in: 2016 Patent Litigation Down

According to the most recent numbers from Unified Patents, U.S. patent litigation decreased in 2016, with district court cases allegedly dropping by 24.8% from 2015.  In its 2016 Annual Patent Dispute Report, Unified Patents notes that while district court cases definitely declined, “NPEs also continue to flood district court and PTAB dockets…[And] Nearly 84% of all NPE litigation involved Patent Assertion Entities.”

RPX Corporation published similar findings in a recent blog entry, noting that while NPEs still accounted for the majority of patent litigation in 2016, “We see, as well, that NPE activity settled down a bit, partially due to the impact of Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) challenges and the Supreme Court’s 2014 Alice decision.”  In fact, The number of challenges brought before the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) appears to have remained relatively constant since 2014, despite it now being “the most common venue for patent disputes.”

Last year, the Patent Trial and Appeal Board underwent its own conflict in the first AIA-related case to reach the U.S. Supreme Court, Cuozzo Speed Technologies, LLC v. Lee.  Despite Cuozzo’s claims that the USPTO inappropriately instituted the process of inter partes review, the Court stood behind the PTAB, backing the Patent Office’s ability to determine when inter partes review is appropriate, in addition to its practice of  using the broadest reasonable interpretation standard (BRI) in post-grant proceedings.

So what lies ahead in 2017?  More than likely, NPEs will continue to litter the patent litigation landscape; Though, as RPX notes in a recent data update, several NPEs seem to be taking a new interest in enforcement opportunities in Europe, where the Unified Patent Court is expected to open its doors later this year.