PublishedApril 20, 2015

Watch John Oliver Take on Patent Trolls: Annotated Edition


John Oliver has covered an impressive amount of tech policy issues on his weekly HBO show Last Week Tonight, the National Journal points out, and he continued this last night, discussing patents and patent reform.

Oliver touched on many issues that are familiar to Patent Progress readers: abstract patents and patent quality, trolls suing end users, shell companies, the Eastern District of Texas, and the Innovation Act.

Oliver’s segment provided a lot of useful data on the patent troll problem.  We’ve compiled some of the most significant data points from the segment, with links to sources:

  • Of the 4,700 patent lawsuits filed in 2012, 3000 were from patent trolls. (Bloomberg)
  • During the last 2 years, the number of lawsuits brought by patent trolls has nearly tripled. (White House)
  • Research shows this type of litigation has cost investors an estimated half a trillion dollars since 1990. (New York Times)
  • Almost 90% of cases with patent trolls are settled. (Georgetown Law Journal)
  • It costs between $2 and 5 million to defend a patent suit. (News 4 San Antonio interview of Rackspace’s Alan Schoenbaum)
  • A quarter of all patent cases are filed in Marshall, Texas. (Al Jazeera)

One particularly important point John Oliver made was when he explained how the patent troll epidemic is tied to patent quality, and the PTO issuing poor quality patents:

And that is the seed of our current problems, because if a troll can get a vaguely defined software patent they can demand payment from anything that fits that description.

The whole 11 minute video is worth watching!  And you can take action to tell your Congressmen to #fixpatents here.

Ali Sternburg

, CCIA

Ali Sternburg is Vice President, Information Policy at the Computer & Communications Industry Association, where she focuses on intermediary liability, copyright, and other areas of intellectual property. Ali joined CCIA during law school in 2011, and previously served as Senior Policy Counsel, Policy Counsel, and Legal Fellow. She is also an Inaugural Fellow at the Internet Law & Policy Foundry.

She received her J.D. in 2012 from American University Washington College of Law, where she was a Student Attorney in the Glushko-Samuelson Intellectual Property Law Clinic, President of the Intellectual Property Law Society, Senior Symposium Chair and Senior Marketing Manager for the Intellectual Property Brief, and a Dean’s Fellow at the Program on Information Justice and Intellectual Property.

She graduated from Harvard College in 2009 where she studied Government and Music, wrote her senior honors thesis on “Theoretical and Legal Views on U.S. Government Involvement in Musical Creativity Online,” and interned at the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard Law School.

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