The term patent troll is used to describe an individual who uses a patent in a detrimental way; essentially abusing the intellectual property system to the benefit of that individual only. A patent troll can be a company or individual, however the defining feature is the purchasing of particular intellectual property rights to monopolize the market. Generally, trolls will not intend to use the patent in a bona fide way, and will have no real connection for obtaining the rights, but will purchase it anyway. It is vital that all patent holders are aware of their rights and restrictions to ensure complete legal compliance at all times.
Patent trolls explained
Patent trolls are one of the causes of market monopolization and dominance of a particular idea, product, or service. They decay the intellectual property industry by buying patent rights for the sole purpose of preventing others from using or developing the idea/property. The rights associated with being a patent holder mean that the trolling individual or company can sue third parties and counter sue – all as a means to prevent competition and deter others from using the invention.
Also known as a patent pirate, a troll will abuse their intellectual property rights in a bid to damage competition in the market. Many of these trolls have no scope to use their newly acquired patent, instead they will simply use their rights to aid their presence within the selected industry and heighten their business capacity.
To clarify, the term patent troll can be used where any of the following activities are adopted;
- Efforts are focused on solely on enforcing their patent rights
- Declare infringement claims against non copiers
- No scope to use the patent legitimately – where the holder has no resources, manufacturing plant or basis to physically implement the patent
- Purchasing patents from struggling firms with the intent on suing third parties over product infringement
- No intention to supply the patented idea to the market but still prevent others from doing so
Many use trolling as a form of profitable business venture. The potential returns on owning the exclusive rights to an idea or invention, and the right to prevent others from using or developing it, can be huge.
However, a serious side effect of trolling is the long-term damage is can do to the progression, development, and innovation of new ideas and inventions. Advancement in new technologies will suffer and the marketplace will become an unfair business trading area – violating the relevant competition laws in place.