Sunday, September 25, 2011

Study: patent trolls have cost innovators half a trillion dollars

Study: patent trolls have cost innovators half a trillion dollars

By now, the story of patent trolls has become well-known: a small company with no products of its own threatens lawsuits against larger companies who inadvertently infringe its portfolio of broad patents. The scenario has become so common that we don't even try to cover all the cases here at Ars. If we did, we'd have little time to write about much else.

But anecdotal evidence is one thing. Data is another. Three Boston University researchers have produced a rigorous empirical estimate of the cost of patent trolling. And the number is breath-taking: patent trolls ("non-practicing entity" is the clinical term) have cost publicly traded defendants $500 billion since 1990. And the problem has become most severe in recent years. In the last four years, the costs have averaged $83 billion per year. The study says this is more than a quarter of US industrial research and development spending during those years.


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