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Patent Litigation Study Shows Rise in Suits, Awards
Lisa Shuchman, Corporate Counsel
May 13, 2014 |0 Comments
The number of patent suits filed in district courts continued to rise in 2013 and has more than doubled in the past five years, according to the first-ever patent litigation year in review published by the legal analytics company Lex Machina.
Using data from its popular legal analytics platform, Lex Machina published a report Tuesday that offers insight into judges, districts, patents, damages and filings. It focuses on major trends and developments in patent litigation during 2013.
Plaintiffs filed 6,092 new patent cases in the U.S. district courts last year, compared with 5,418 new cases filed in 2012, a 12.4 percent increase.
Not surprisingly, technology companies bore the brunt of this litigation. Apple Inc. and Amazon Inc. were the most common targets of lawsuits, named as defendants in 59 and 50 cases, respectively. AT&T Inc. ranked third with 45 cases, and the rest of the list was comprised of such technology giants as Google Inc., Dell Inc., HTC Corp., Samsung Electronics Co., Microsoft Corp., LG Electronics Inc. and Hewlett-Packard Co.
The data also revealed that the top 10 most-prolific filers of patent lawsuits in 2013 were all patent assertion entities, commonly known as patent trolls. The report, which calls these companies patent monetization entities, said ArrivalStar Inc. and Melvino Technologies Ltd. jointly filed 137 cases, making them the No. 1 patent plaintiff in 2013. They also asserted six of the 10 most-frequently asserted patents, all involving systems for monitoring or tracking vehicle status, travel or proximity.
The data showing the activity of patent trolls runs counter to claims by critics of patent reform and antipatent troll legislation, including former U.S. Patent and Trademark Office Director David Kappos, who says the patent troll issue has been blown out of proportion.
Owen Byrd, whose official title is chief evangelist and general counsel of Lex Machina, says patent trolls are clearly active. But he also says the data shows the top plaintiffs by number of distinct patents at issue in open litigation are mostly operating companies. Telefonaktiebolaget LM Ericssson is the leader with 103 patents in litigation in 2013. Apple Inc. takes the No. 8 spot with 52 patents being litigated. And Pfizer ranks 10th in the top plaintiff list, with 30 of its patents being litigated.
But even in this list, two divisions of the massive patent holding company Intellectual Ventures, often labeled a patent troll, ranked second and third on the list of plaintiffs with the most patents asserted in cases opened in 2013, with Intellectual Venture I asserting 100, and Intellectual Ventures II asserting 81.
Byrd also noted that 61 percent of the 4,917 patents at issue in all cases filed during 2013 had not been litigated in the past 10 years. “This suggests that the trend in assertion continues to involve cases of first impression,” Byrd said. “And the fact that so many of these patents that have never been litigated before are now the subject of disputes suggests that this is still a vibrant area of law.”
The numbers also show that plaintiffs continue to look at monetization strategies that include enforcement, he said.
Companies, agencies mentioned: Western District of New York | U.S. Patent | ITC | Intellectual Ventures | Pfizer Inc. | Melvino Technologies | ArrivalStar | HTC | Computer Science Department | Apple Inc. | Stanford University | U.S. International Trade Commission | Monsanto Company | CLS Bank | Hewlett Packard Company | LG Electronics | Microsoft Corporation | Samsung Electronics Company Inc. | Dell Inc. | Google Inc. | AT&T Inc. | Amazon.com, Inc. | Supreme Court of the United States
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