In June 2013, the White House released a proposal aimed at curbing the activities of so-called “patent trolls” – companies whose objective is to generate licensing fees from their patented technology. Patent trolls (aka non-practicing entities) generally do not manufacture or use their patented technology and often file patent infringement suits against third parties to attain their objective.

In the proposal, the White House describes the extent to which patent trolls/non-practicing entities are damaging innovation, harming competition and ultimately hurting consumers by filing aggressive lawsuits in order to extract revenue from the companies that invent and make use of technology and patents.Recommended proposals for addressing these issues include measures such as:

  • Increasing the burden on patent trolls to fully disclose patent ownership so that they cannot hide behind shell companies;
  • Protecting targeted end-users by providing accessible, easy-to-read information about how to defend against patent trolls; and
  • Increasing discussions with stakeholders such as interest groups, research institutions and patent owners who have a genuine interest in using patents for innovation. Such discussions will hopefully result in suggested policies and ideas for improving US innovation.

Will the Overhaul Work?

Some technology figures, including authors of innovation weblogs and leading science and technology correspondents, argue that these proposals are merely cosmetic and will have little impact on the activities of patent trolls.

The proposals have been greeted favourably by the majority of the technology community and those affected by infringement claims of non-practicing entities, including many of the multinational technology companies that have a prominent presence in Ireland.