“Patent Trolls” Cause Some of the Nastiest Cases for Patent Protection

In concept, patents are very promising safeguards for novel ideas and creations. However, they can also be used for unscrupulous motives, as many patent trolls proved over the years.


‘Patent trolls’ or patent hoarders are groups or individuals that register numerous patents to allow them to sue for infringement later on. In most cases, their registered patents do not hold a lot of merit or value. In some cases, they are not even executed. ‘Patent trolling’ is actually considered as a booming business nowadays, especially since a lot of defendants opt to settle instead.


Patent trolls can target just about anyone – from small businesses to city governments. In one such case, a company known as ArrivalStar sued the King County, Illinois Commuter Rail, Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, and the Maryland Transit Administration over their bus-tracking systems. As it turns out, ArrivalStar has a patent for vehicle tracking using a computer.


Most of the defendants settled but it was the American Public Transit Association (APTA) that put a stop to the trolling when they filed a lawsuit asking the court to invalidate ArrivalStar’s patents. The latter, then decided to drop their claims.


These cases show that there’s a lot of complexities when it comes to patent protection and that additional work needs to be put in to stop trolls from their tracks. But while combating patent trolls can still be a struggle today, it shouldn’t dissuade you from your patent registration. To know more about patents, read the FAQs roundup below.


Frequently Asked Questions About Patents

The Patent Law is technical and intricate that necessitates a simplified route towards a license to understand the filing and processing of patents. Below is a list of questions frequently asked regarding patents.


What is a patent?

Patent is a grant of a property right with limited duration relating to inventions by an individual or a company with the expressed objective of eventual public disclosure. It excludes all others from manufacturing, vending, and utilizing the invention.


Who can apply for a patent?

A patent may only be applied for only by the actual inventor(s) in one’s/their name(s).


What can and cannot be patented?

With the characteristic requirement of inventions as useful and non-obvious, patents will be given to:

  1. Article of manufacture
  2. Composition of matter
  3. Process
  4. Machine
  5. Article of manufacture’s ornamental design


With the characteristics aforesaid, the following is an enumeration of what will not be give patents:

  1. Intangible ideas
  2. Earthly phenomenon
  3. Natural laws
  4. Works of literature, drama, arts, and music
  5. Inventions of no inherent use
  6. Inventions that are offensive to societal morals


How do I apply for a patent?

There are two types of patent application available for inventors: (1) Non-provisional Application wherein the invention will undergo the examination process that leads to patent; (2) Provisional Application that ascertains the filing date, but the invention does not go into examination.


Is it possible to transfer ownership of a patent?

Just like any intellectual property, copyright or trademark, a patent, before it extinguishes, may be assigned to another individual by sale, donation, or birthright. As prerequisite, a deed of assignment with the assignee’s name on it is needed by law.


How do I conduct a patent assignment search?

The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), the mother agency, has a branch called Patent and Trademark Resource Center (PTRC) found in almost all of the states of the United States.


Each facility has a complete, updated record of patent assignment since the inception of patents in the United States. If, however, it is impractical for you to travel to the nearest facility, try the website of USPTO.


How do I obtain a complete history of a patent?

Patent history and even published applications for patents may be obtained by physical presence at the File Information Unit (FIU) in Arlington, Virginia. They have a telephone number for your queries.


How long does it take to get a patent?

By current statistics, an application for a patent in a crowded field, like computing, may take an applicant as long as six (6) years or more but it could be a lot less in other fields.


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