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Protecting Your Company From Patent Trolls

Business Entity Structure / Business Litigation / Insurance / Intellectual Property / Legal Agreements / Sticky Situations / Unexpected Business Risks

The term “patent troll” has entered the corporate vernacular thanks in large part to the ongoing “smartphone patent wars” as well as the increasing number of companies that have begun to take a stand in fighting the malicious behavior of entities that exist solely for filing frivolous patent litigation.

According to a White House report released earlier this year, patent trolls are defined as:

“Companies that do not make products, but buy up or own patents and sue businesses they claim are infringing on those rights in order to collect licensing fees.”

In the words of President Obama, these entities “don’t actually produce anything themselves,” but instead develop a business model “to essentially leverage and hijack somebody else’s idea and see if they can extort some money out of them.” 

The government believes that patent trolls are a drain on the American economy that requires legislative action to level the playing field for innovators.  But waiting for Congress to act is no way to protect your company from patent trolls.

Here are three ways you can take action now:

Prevention.  You can search for patents and trademarks online so you do not introduce anything to the market that already has a patent or trademark.

IP Insurance.  Frivolous patent infringement suits have become so common that some insurance companies offer policies to help protect businesses from patent litigation.

Legal help.  If you receive notification of a patent lawsuit or a letter demanding payment, consult a business attorney before you do anything.  An attorney can also work with you to ensure your patents, trademarks and copyrights are current and identify any areas of concern for management.

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