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GAO report: Patent infringement lawsuits increased by one-third from 2010 to 2011

foil.seal.gaoA recent report from the Government Accountability Office found that the number of patent infringement lawsuits filed by so-called patent trolls in federal courts increased by one-third from 2010 to 2011.

The increase could be due in part to anticipated changes in the 2011 Leahy-Smith America Invents Act, which limits the number of defendants in a suit, which could cause some plaintiffs to break the lawsuit into multiple lawsuits.

The GAO also found that, between 2007 and 2011, the number of overall defendants rose by approximately 129 percent. Approximately 20 percent of all lawsuits were filed by nonpracticing entities, while the remainder was filed by companies that make products.

Lawsuits involving software-related patents accounted for approximately 89 percent of the increase in defendants over the 2007-2011 period.

Numerous trade groups, including the National Retail Federation, have spoken out against patent trolls and have urged the Obama administration to address the growing problem.

“This report affirms NRF’s position that patent trolls are increasingly threatening the U.S. economy,” the NRF said. “Patent trolls are growing in size and strength and exploiting legal loopholes to extort hefty payments from American companies, ranging from retail to technology. Trolls stymie technological innovation and ingenuity, and ultimately cost companies and consumers millions of dollars a year by driving up prices.”

The GAO recommended in the report that the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office consider examining trends in patent infringement lawsuits and link the information to internal examination data to improve patent quality and examination.

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