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Defending the Trolls: The Trending Decline in Patent Lawsuits

A record number of patent lawsuits were filed in November 2015 in the U.S., including combined district court cases and patent disputes resolved through inter partes review, marking an all time high for patent troll activity. But it seems as if the tides are starting to turn. Since 2015, the number of yearly patent lawsuits has significantly dropped.

As stated by Unified Patents in June of 2019, the number of new patent lawsuits filed dropped by 15 percent, comparing the first half of 2018 to the first half of 2017. This decline has been the long continual result of a bevvy of court decisions that have shifted the tides of patent litigation in recent years, which we will analyze here.

Alice’s Magic

The first big case that changed the course of patent lawsuits was the 2014 case, Alice Corp. vs. CLS Bank International. It’s estimated that tens of billions of dollars every year are spent on software patent lawsuits. This court case specifically impacted those who have software patents, as it ruled that the use of a computer that performs general computer functions doesn’t make an abstract idea patentable. Without Alice, many businesses would have suffered at the mercy of patent trolls who were threatening them over abstract, generally-used concepts, such as voting for a picture online. In the years since Alice, many businesses have been saved by the ruling. You can learn more from the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s ‘Saved by Alice series.

Taking Down Texas 

In 2017, another court case contributed significantly to the decline of patent trolls,  TC Heartland, LLC vs. Kraft Foods Group Brands, LLC. For many years, the Eastern District of Texas was the epicenter for patent litigation filings. This was because patent trolls had the jurisdiction to choose where they wanted the case to be held, giving them the home court advantage over the businesses they were trying to crush. This case acknowledged that patent litigation couldn’t be held in a location of the patent owner’s choosing, but instead had to be held in a location relevant to the defendant, such as the district in which their company did business. Because of this, patent trolls looked to do their dirty deeds elsewhere and the number of patent litigation filings dropped from that epicenter. From reports by Texas Lawbook as reported by the ABA Journal, there was a 65 percent decline of new patent litigation filings in Eastern Texas a year after the case, and a 74 percent decrease from 2015. But since patent trolls were suddenly reluctant to file there, they decided to take up base in Delaware, where many companies are already incorporated, giving them a new home court advantage. From the first half of 2016 to the first half of 2017, the number of new patent litigation cases in the District of Delaware increased by 71 percent according to the same data.

The Future of Patent Trolls

There’s no telling what specific future patent trolls have, but we know that major court cases such as these will continue to take them down. It will take law changing action for the patent system that many deem as ‘broken’ to be fixed, but we believe that we may slowly get there.

Global Patent Solutions is a company on the forefront of the patent process. Our experience and insightful research helps inventors determine what the next step should be as they continue to drive innovative development. Contact Global Patent Solutions today to learn more.