Patent trolls are still at it. A new report from Unified Patents, found that 449 patent cases were filed in district court in January 2015—a 36% increase over January 2014. The growth was fueled largely by patent trolls, who filed more than half of the month’s cases. This marks the second month in a row where we have seen an increase in patent litigation from the same period a year ago.
Of course, data from two months does not necessarily establish a long-term trend. But the data is important because it rebuts one of the main talking points from opponents of legislative patent reform. Groups that don’t want reform have been touting the fact that September 2014 saw a drop in cases from the same month in 2013. But if you are going to cherry-pick a single month’s statistics, there is no reason to favor September 2014 over the more recent data.
When considering whether reform is needed, it is important not to lose sight of the massive and sustained increase in patent troll litigation over the past decade. To illustrate how much troll litigation has surged, there were more cases filed by patent trolls in one month in January 2015 than in the entire year of 2004. (Trolls filed 250 cases last month as compared to 234 cases in all of 2004, Even accounting for the impact of the America Invents Act’s anti-joinder rule, that is an astonishing increase.) Although there was a small decline in litigation in 2014, patent trolling exploded over the past decade and remains at historically high levels. This litigation is overwhelmingly a tax on innovation and does nothing to promote the deployment of new technology.
Congress should not be misled into thinking that problems with the patent system have gone away. With trolls going strong, we still need legislative patent reform. Earlier this month, Rep. Bob Goodlatte, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, reintroduced the Innovation Act. While it won’t solve all problems with the patent system, the bill includes a number of provisions designed to make litigation abuse more difficult.
Tell your lawmaker: Let's stop patent trolls. Pass the Innovation Act!