The amount of patent litigation has been increasing over recent years. One cause for the increase is a growing industry of companies dubbed “patent trolls,” which are not asserting patents to protect their own products and research. Rather, they are enforcing others’ patents for profit.
They own patents that are not associated with any product that they sell. Or they may approach companies that own patents and offer to obtain licenses from the industry on their behalf. Patent trolls are the greenmailers of the patent world, often extorting sums based on the value of the target company, not on the value of the technology allegedly infringed.Legal relief in the form of an injunction — a shutdown to prevent continued use of an infringing device or process — has long been considered the birthright of any patent owner. Patent trolls have made use of that fact, and the threat of prolonged patent litigation, to extract exorbitant license fees from allegedly infringing companies. Companies fearful of being shut down, or afraid of the cost of patent litigation, often will take the license as the path of least resistance. But the U.S. Supreme Court recently has taken away the patent owner’s birthright of the permanent injunction, which may have the intended effect of deterring patent trolls. In the process, this decision may also have decreased the value of potential licenses.
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