Browse Definitions:
Definition

patent troll

Contributor(s): Ivy Wigmore

A patent troll is an individual or an organization that purchases and holds patents for unscrupulous purposes such as stifling competition or launching patent infringement suits. 

In legal terms, a patent troll is a type of non-practicing entity: someone who holds a patent but is not involved in the design or manufacture of any product or process associated with that patent. Non-practicing entities include legitimate institutions such as startups, technology transfer agencies, universities and research organizations. To differentiate patent trolls from legitimate non-practicing entities, they are sometimes referred to as patent-assertion companies: organizations that exist solely to obtain patents and profit from them through patent infringement claims. 

Patent trolls usually obtain patents from a number of sources and collect them in volume. Most patents come from the auctions of bankrupt companies, from companies who don't intend to act on a technology and from individuals without the funds to develop their inventions. The patent system vulnerable to abuse because patents frequently describe a general concept rather than a product or process and may not define what it protects in adequately precise terms. In 2011, for example, a patent assertion entity called Innovatio threatened to sue 8,000 hotels, stores and coffee shops in the United States, claiming that the use of Wi-Fi infringed upon 17 of its patents. The company claimed that although household Wi-Fi also constituted an infringement, they would not sue individual homes. Many of the businesses paid settlement fees ranging from $2,300 to $5,000. Similar alleged patent infringement cases have targeted the aggregation of news stories into podcasts, sending photocopies to email, and using shopping carts on a website. 

In the United States a bill introduced into the House, the SHIELD Act (H.R. 845) is designed to make patent infringement suits less attractive. If the bill is signed into law, if a patent troll loses such a suit, they will be required to pay the defendant's costs. Because court costs can run into the millions, it is hoped that the risk of loss will be sufficient to dissuade patent trolls from launching frivolous suits. 

This was last updated in September 2013

Continue Reading About patent troll

Start the conversation

Send me notifications when other members comment.

By submitting you agree to receive email from TechTarget and its partners. If you reside outside of the United States, you consent to having your personal data transferred to and processed in the United States. Privacy

Please create a username to comment.

-ADS BY GOOGLE

File Extensions and File Formats

Powered by:

SearchCompliance

  • pure risk (absolute risk)

    Pure risk, also called absolute risk, is a category of threat that is beyond human control and has only one possible outcome if ...

  • risk assessment

    Risk assessment is the identification of hazards that could negatively impact an organization's ability to conduct business.

  • audit program (audit plan)

    An audit program, also called an audit plan, is an action plan that documents what procedures an auditor will follow to validate ...

SearchSecurity

  • insider threat

    Insider threat is a generic term for a threat to an organization's security or data that comes from within.

  • ransomware

    Ransomware is a subset of malware in which the data on a victim's computer is locked, typically by encryption, and payment is ...

  • hacker

    A hacker is an individual who uses computer, networking or other skills to overcome a technical problem.

SearchHealthIT

SearchDisasterRecovery

  • business continuity and disaster recovery (BCDR)

    Business continuity and disaster recovery (BCDR) are closely related practices that describe an organization's preparation for ...

  • business continuity plan (BCP)

    A business continuity plan (BCP) is a document that consists of the critical information an organization needs to continue ...

  • call tree

    A call tree -- sometimes referred to as a phone tree -- is a telecommunications chain for notifying specific individuals of an ...

SearchStorage

SearchSolidStateStorage

  • 3D XPoint

    3D XPoint is memory storage technology jointly developed by Intel and Micron Technology Inc.

  • RRAM or ReRAM (resistive RAM)

    RRAM or ReRAM (resistive random access memory) is a form of nonvolatile storage that operates by changing the resistance of a ...

  • JEDEC

    JEDEC is a global industry group that develops open standards for microelectronics.

SearchCloudStorage

  • Google Cloud Storage

    Google Cloud Storage is an enterprise public cloud storage platform that can house large unstructured data sets.

  • RESTful API

    A RESTful application program interface breaks down a transaction to create a series of small modules, each of which addresses an...

  • cloud storage infrastructure

    Cloud storage infrastructure is the hardware and software framework that supports the computing requirements of a private or ...

Close