The importance of the US Patent Office’s “inter partes review” (IPR) process was highlighted in dramatic fashion yesterday. Patent appeals judges threw out a patent [PDF] that was used to sue more than 80 companies in the fitness, wearables, and health industries.
Trying to succeed as a startup is hard enough. Getting a frivolous patent infringement demand letter in the mail can make it a whole lot harder. The experience of San Francisco-based Motiv is the latest example of how patent trolls impose painful costs on small startups and stifle innovation.
A Virginia firm is accusing Durham LED maker Cree of infringing on four patents, and is asking for “a reasonable royalty” to be awarded in court. But this time it’s not a competitor filing suit in federal court, it’s Bluestone Innovations LLC, a patent licensing and enforcement company often categorized as a “patent troll.”
In the five years since it began its work — a result of the America Invents Act of 2011 — the Patent Trial and Appeal Board has saved companies more than $2 billion in legal fees alone, according to Joshua Landau, patent counsel at the Computer and Communications Industry Association, offering an expeditious and relatively cheap avenue to challenge patents of doubtful validity.
The benefits of stopping bad patents from snaking their way through the economy have been even greater.