In a disturbing trend, it has now become apparent that major corporations associated with technology industries such as Apple and Google, Inc are now devoting more resources to patent litigation in conjunction with defensive patent acquisition than they devote to the development of new knowledge, products and research. This has been taken as a negative sign for the progression of the United States into the 21st century as an economy based on innovation. The President treats this issue seriously enough to propose reforms to the intellectual property system which he hopes will address the structural problems for the US economy which are holding innovation back and increasing the cost to the end user of new technologies.
One of the first targets in this process are companies which are known as ‘Patent trolls’. There are companies which have a commercial strategy of acquiring patents from inventors cheaply and then attempting accuse other companies of patent infringement in the hope of settling matters quickly out of court for a license fee. The new reforms are intended to raise the standard of patent applications and to protect the interests of the original inventors instead of the companies that acquire the rights at a later stage without adding value to the technical development of the economy.
One of the organisations which is often cited as being a perpetrator of ‘patent trolling’ is Intellectual Ventures which has over 70,000 patents and seems to do nothing except accuse other companies of patent infringement. There is now a substantial movement in the Silicon Valley lobby for reform of the patent system to prevent the destructive elements of the patent system disincentivising innovation and slowing down the economic development that could result.