The need to fix the U.S.’s patent system has been a subject of much deliberation in all three branches of government recently — particularly over the last year with the advancements of new technologies that have thrown the patent system into a tizzy. Patent trolls abound, and the current system allows them to bully smaller companies into paying licensing fees for their intellectual property rather than suffer the legal expenses of fighting for their own IP rights in court. All this legal turmoil in the U.S. over patent laws seems to be coming to a head as the Supreme Court is set to hear the highest number of intellectual property cases this year in the court’s history.

Two cases went before the Court in February that could have an effect on the existence of patent trolls. The cases surrounded the concept of one party covering the other’s legal fees in IP disputes. Current law requires one side to prove that the other’s is objectively baseless — something that often goes unpursued for reasons often a result of further expense.

The Supreme Court will hear a total of eight cases this year — the above referenced cases on patent law, four others on patent law, and two on intellectual property law. Reuters noted that the court is only hearing 70 cases this nine-month term ending in June, so IP cases are taking up 11.4 percent of the court’s time. 

Much of the rise in IP cases is directly linked to the uptick in swift adoption of new technologies that are evolving faster than the legislation can form to regulate them. One such case exemplifies this conundrum: Alice Corporation Pty. Ltd. v. CLS Bank International. InsideCounsel’s Rich Steeves writes that the case will have an impact on the future of software patents as the core issue is whether claims to computer-implemented inventions are patentable. Any decision made by the court will have an impact on the software industry as machines continue to advance to a degree in which they create inventions that puzzle IP lawmakers. As computer-based technology furthers in capability, IP laws will necessarily have to keep up.


For more on the Supreme Court and intellectual property, check out these articles:

Supreme Court trend toward IP optimization continues with Medtronic decision 

Supreme Court Gabelli decision will continue to bring changes to SEC enforcement policy

Supreme Court hears cases that could affect patent trolling

The IP counsel’s role in integrating IP in the business plan