In recent years, American companies have faced a growing threat from patent assertion entities derisively called “patent trolls.” These often shadowy firms make money by threatening patent lawsuits rather than creating useful products. A recent study suggests that the roots of the patent trolling problem may lie with the US Patent and Trademark office—specifically with patent examiners who fail to thoroughly vet patent applications before approving them.
Playsaurus, a small Los Angeles-based game studio that makes Clicker Heroes and the upcoming Clicker Heroes 2, has recently been threatened with a lawsuit if it doesn’t pay $35,000 for a patent licensing fee to cover a patent for “electronic tokens.”
In a Thursday blog post, the CEO of Playsaurus wrote that the company that sent him the letter, GTX Corporation, is a “patent troll.” CEO Thomas Wolfley called GTX’s demands to avoid “costly litigation” over Playsaurus’ use of electronic “Rubies” in its games “meritless.”
There has been a lot going on in Washington lately, so you could be forgiven if you did not notice the recent confirmation of the next director of the United States Patent and Trademark Office, Andrei Iancu. However, this is bigger news than many may think: The next leader of the PTO will have the opportunity to strengthen patent quality and combat frivolous and abusive patent litigation. This has substantial implications for American small-business creation, economic growth, job creation and innovation that will be felt throughout our economy for years to come.