Google — along with Blackberry and other tech companies — has asked the FTC to pay greater attention to patent trolls, who embroil companies in expensive litigation over bogus claims on the ownership of new technologies.
Patent trolls, or "patent assertion entities," cost U.S. companies $30 billion a year in "direct costs" for fighting off legal challenges from companies that don't make anything but simply want to be paid to stop suing, Google wrote on its public policy blog.
Their latest tactic is "asymmetric warfare," in which a company that possesses legitimate patents may split them up and sell them to troll companies, who then sue others for using them on multiple fronts, even though the trolls have no interest in actually manufacturing any of the patented products.
Using unusually robust language, Google described patent litigation as a war against trolls that would require "nuclear deterrence" to end it:
This trend has been referred to as “patent privateering”: a company sells patents to trolls with the goal of waging asymmetric warfare against its competitors.
... It also undermines incentives for companies to work together towards “patent peace” through good-faith negotiation and cross-licensing. If cross-licensing is nuclear deterrence for patents, then privateering has the opposite effect, facilitating patent proliferation and aggression.
About 62 percent of all patent litigation comes from trolls, Google said, using this chart to illustrate how prevalent trolls have become in the courts:
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