06 April 2017
Brussels
Reporter: Barney Dixon

Patent trolls on the rise in EU, says coalition


European courts are facing an “explosion of patent infringement lawsuits from so-called patent trolls”, according to advocacy coalition IP2Innovate.

The coalition, which counts Google, Spotify and Intel as members, claimed ‘trolls’ make up a “staggering 20 percent” of all patent lawsuits in Germany.

IP2Innovate describes ‘trolls’ as patent assertion entities (PAEs) that produce no products nor offer any services.

“They buy up patents, often of poor quality, and use the shortcomings of the legal system which enable them to force companies to accept high settlement payments,” according to a IP2Innovate spokesperson.

According to a study by Darts IP, which was cited by IP2Innovate, most of these cases were filed in the District Court of Düsseldorf in Germany.

Patent trolls have made Europe their new stomping ground, said the study, with the continent attracting more than 80 percent of their lawsuits outside of the US. The majority are filed in Germany and France.

Patrick Oliver, executive director of IP2Innovate, also identified the Unified Patent Court (UPC) as a cause for concern, as it could be an “attractive venue for patent abuses”.

“The European Commission must get tough with US patent trolls.”

A spokesperson for the group said that the UPC creates “an open invitation to PAEs”.

“The threat of an EU-wide injunction is a powerful weapon, and the UPC hands PAEs exactly such a weapon.”

“The UPC also offers other attractions to PAEs: they will have more time to prepare for the case than the defendant and they will be able to choose the ideal venue for the hearing.”

The coalition has been in discussions with the European Commission over possible action.

It is encouraging the European Commission to carry out a “fact-finding exercise to better appreciate the scale of the phenomenon of PAEs in Europe”.

“This could include a possible public consultation where companies targeted by PAEs could anonymously share data on the level of PAE activity in Europe (ie, number of letters received, settlement payments and lawsuits).”

In response to a letter from Oliver, Andrus Ansip, vice president of the European Commission, wrote in February that the issue is being “regularly discussed” across commission services.

On the subject of the unitary patent system, Ansip said the European Patent Office (EPO) would grant any unitary patents and that it is “recognised worldwide as one of the most demanding patent offices when it comes to the grant of patents”.

But he added that if the quality of specific patents should ever be in doubt, then the opposition procedure at the EPO, as well as decisions of the UPC, could overrule patents granted incorrectly.

More news
The latest news from IPPro Patents
Join Our Newsletter

Sign up today and never
miss the latest news or an issue again

Subscribe now
Businesses should prepare for UPC, despite uncertainty
17 October 2017 | London | Reporter: Barney Dixon
Businesses should make preparations for the Unified Patent Court and unitary patent, despite mounting uncertainty surrounding when, if at all, the court will come into effect
Patent ‘irrationality’ causes a negative image of patents
16 October 2017 | London | Reporter: Barney Dixon
Spectators are far more accepting of copyright and trademarks than they are of patents because of “irrationality”, according to Sir Robin Jacob
Partner promotions at White & Case
13 October 2017 | New York | Reporter: Barney Dixon
White & Case has promoted 31 new partners, including four intellectual property attorneys, across the US and UK
Qualcomm hit with $775 million fine in Taiwan
13 October 2017 | Taipei | Reporter: Barney Dixon
Qualcomm has been hit with a $775 million fine, after the Taiwan Fair Trade Commission found that the chipmaker had abused its position in the baseband chip market
SUEPO willing to work with new EPO president
12 October 2017 | Munich | Reporter: Barney Dixon
A source close to the Staff Union of the European Patent Office has revealed it is always willing to work with whoever is elected to lead the European Patent Office
BPTO and EPO sign PPH cooperation treaty
12 October 2017 | São Paulo | Reporter: Barney Dixon
The Brazilian Patent and Trademark Office and the European Patent Office have signed a cooperation treaty, aimed at the creation of a patent prosecution highway between the two offices
Johnson Controls-Hitachi selects Anaqua
11 October 2017 | Boston | Reporter: Barney Dixon
The joint venture between Johnson Controls and Hitachi Air Conditioning has chosen intellectual property analytics company Anaqua to globalise its IP management systems