01.20.18

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Patent Litigation in the US is Down Sharply and Patent Trolls’ Demise Has Much to Do With It

Posted in America, Patents at 1:31 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Summary: Docket Navigator and Lex Machina both show a significant decline in litigation — a trend which is likely to carry on now that TC Heartland is in tact (not for just half a year but a whole year) and PTAB completes another record year

THE TREND is undeniable. The numbers speak for themselves. The sample set is large enough (thousands), it is complete, and several independent trackers are showing the same thing (independently).

Patents were not designed for litigation, which is merely a last resort. So decline in litigation may be bad news for patent lawyers, but not necessarily for inventors.

Michael Loney, in his latest roundup (primarily shut behind a paywall), shows that patent litigation is in its lowest level in recent history (in the US). It’s the same thing other data sources show. “Managing IP,” he wrote, “analyses 2017 data pulled from Docket Navigator to reveal: the overall patent cases filed in US district courts by half, quarter and month; the top 50 plaintiffs, defendants and law firms; and the breakdown of filing by district overall and pre- and post-TC Heartland” (which we've just mentioned and also mentioned several times last year in relation to cases in the Eastern District of Texas collapsing post-TC Heartland).

“Last year,” Loney continued, “4,522 patent cases were filed in US district courts, according to a search of the Docket Navigator database conducted by Managing IP on January 7.”

So patent litigation (the lawsuits ‘industry’) in the US continues to perish. Scientists can sigh in relief.

Similar data comes from Lex Machina. It wrote the following summary:

In the final quarter of 2017, a total of 981 patent cases were filed in U.S. District Courts, a 1.3% decrease over the previous quarter’s total of 994 cases. Cases filed in the calendar year 2017 (4,057 cases) represent a decline of 10.3% over 2016 (with 4,529 cases).

Much of it was from patent trolls — a ‘sector’ which is declining (all it ever does is threats and litigation, nothing else).

WiLANThe decline is of course good news. Unless one is in the business of litigation. On the face of it, Canadian patent bully WiLAN is looking ahead at more bullying — something it typically does down south (in the US). As IAM put it some days ago:

WiLAN, now part of the Quarterhill family of companies, kicked off 2018 with two patent deals with major Asian operating companies, TSMC and Panasonic. On January 8th, the NPE announced its wholly-owned subsidiary Cetus Technologies had acquired patents related to DRAM technology, as well as NAND flash memory, from Panasonic. The announcement was made four days after another deal with TSMC, which the company hailed as a “new type of transaction”.

Now that it targets “major Asian operating companies” (IAM’s term for non-trolls and actual producers) it may be a good time to start our next post, which focuses on Asia. A lot of patent trolling activity has shifted towards there.

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