As Bilbo Baggins heads back to the theater this December to fight against the seemingly unbeatable dragon Smaug, governments and businesses in the U.S. steel themselves for a similar battle, against trolls. These aren’t the kind that turn to stone in the harsh light of day, but rather the type that snatch up patents for the sole purpose of sending infringement letters to companies with the hopes of getting settlement cash from them.

These patent trolls, as they are known, have been getting more aggressive, moving their suits “downstream.” Rather than targeting a large company that manufactures routers that may infringe on a patent, the trolls are now targeing  small businesses, that uses the routers in question.

The case of MyWebGrocer, according to USA Today, is one such company that is feeling the bite from the trolls. The Vermont-based business has spent more than $100,000 in attorney’s fees fending off letters from trolls who claim infringement. For a company with only 200 employees, this is not an insignificant number. 

The federal government is taking the problem seriously, as are many states. In June, the White House released a patent troll status report stating that these types of suits have tripled in the past two years. The United States Patent and Trademark Office has been tasked with enforcing the executive branch’s orders, and several patent reform bills have been proposed at the federal level. In addition, attorneys general from several states, including Massachusetts, Nebraska and Vermont have taken aggressive stances against the trolls. It will take Bilbo at least two more movies to defeat his enemies, but perhaps these patent trolls can be slain a bit sooner.


To read more about patent trolls, check out the following:

Boston start-up fighting back against patent trolls

Venture capitalists weigh in on patent trolls

New report examines the economic cost of patent trolls

Do British courts hold the key to slaying patent trolls?