The Federal Trade Commission recently announced they are opening an inquiry into patent assertion entities, otherwise known as patent trolls. Specifically, the FTC is looking into roughly 25 companies that are in the business of buying and enforcing patents. Better late than never, right?
Collectively, the companies that are being looked into were responsible for 60 percent of the 4,000+ patent litigation lawsuits levied in 2012. To give you an idea of just how bad it is becoming, the number of patent lawsuits shot up 70 percent from 2004 to 2009. In the event the FTC finds evidence of wrongdoing, patent trolls could be looking at a series of antitrust lawsuits.
It’s a bit puzzling that it has taken this long for the FTC to take action. Part of the delay likely has to do with the fact that patent trolling is pretty much limited to the technology industry. If it were more widespread, it’s likely the FTC would have stepped in sooner.
As Gizmodo points out, it was a little more than two years ago when the NPR publically reported on the act. The next summer, some members of the House of Representatives created the Saving High-Tech Innovators from Egregious Legal Disputes (SHIELD) Act.
One of the bill’s sponsors, Rep. Peter Lazio, said patent trolls don’t create new technology and they don’t create American jobs. Instead, they pad their pockets by buying patents on products they didn’t create then suing innovators that did the hard work and created the product.