Anyone familiar with the story “The Three Billy Goats Gruff” knows the scenario. A small goat convinces the troll guarding the bridge he needs to cross not to eat him, because a larger goat will come along that will make for a hearty meal. A larger goat comes along and convinces the troll that an even bigger goat will come along. When the largest goat approaches, he actually knocks the troll from the bridge and the troll is never heard from again.
So how does this story relate to patent law?
There is a growing number of small companies that purchase and hold small (somewhat nondescript) patents and sue larger companies that develop products allegedly using such patents to extract royalties and other monetary remedies. Essentially a large company would have to pay a “toll” of sorts in order to use the patented material in its products. Hence the name “patent troll.”
In some instances, the patent troll will get its way; monetary damages for unauthorized use of the patented material as well other fees. Sometimes, the troll will be defeated, much like the largest goat in the story.
An example of a troll being defeated was found in a recent case between Cupertino based Apple Computer and Honolulu based GPNE. Apple was accused of infringing upon GPNE’s patents in the development of its iPhones and iPads. According to a recode.net report, a jury was not convinced that Apple had infringed upon the patents accused.
Despite this defeat, a recent study by PriceWaterhouseCooper found that the number of patent infringement cases is on the rise. With this in mind, it is helpful to have an experienced attorney to defend your products.