U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) report to Congressional Committees... 
Friday, August 23, 2013 at 07:37AM

Intellectual Property: Asessing Factors That Affect Patent Infringement Litigation Could Help Improve Patent Quality

Why The GAO Developed this Report: Legal commentators, technology companies, Congress, and others have raised questions about patent infringement lawsuits by entities that own patents but do not make products. Such entities may include universities licensing patents developed by university research, companies focused on licensing patents they developed, or companies that buy patents from others for the purposes of asserting the patents for profit.
Section 34 of AIA mandated that GAO conduct a study on the consequences of patent litigation by NPEs. This report examines (1) the volume and characteristics of recent patent litigation activity; (2) views of stakeholders knowledgeable in patent litigation on key factors that have contributed to recent patent litigation; (3) what developments in the judicial system may affect patent litigation; and (4) what actions, if any, PTO has recently taken that may affect patent litigation in the future. GAO reviewed relevant laws, analyzed patent infringement litigation data from 2000 to 2011, and interviewed officials from PTO and knowledgeable stakeholders, including representatives of companies involved in patent litigation.
The “Conclusion” and “Recommendation for Executive Branch Action” from the GAO Report are provided below:
Conclusion:  Public discussion surrounding patent infringement litigation often focuses on the increasing role of NPEs. However, our analysis indicates that regardless of the type of litigant, lawsuits involving software-related patents accounted for about 89 percent of the increase in defendants between 2007 and 2011, and most of the suits brought by PMEs involved software-related patents. This suggests that the focus on the identity of the litigant—rather than the type of patent—may be misplaced. PTO’s recent efforts to work with the software industry to more uniformly define software terminology and make it easier to identify relevant patents and patent owners may strengthen the U.S. patent system. Further, PTO has available internal data on the patent examination process that could be linked to litigation data, and a 2003 National Academies study reported that using these types of data together could provide useful insights into patent quality. Examining the types of patents and issues in dispute represents a potentially valuable opportunity to improve the quality of issued patents and the patent examination process and to further strengthen the U.S. patent system.
Recommendation for Executive Branch Action:  We are recommending that the Secretary of Commerce direct the Director of PTO to consider examining trends in patent infringement litigation, including the types of patents and issues in dispute, and to consider linking this information to internal data on patent examination to improve the quality of issued patents and the patent examination process.
The link to the GAO report is provide here: http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-13-465


Article originally appeared on 4A's Patent Forum (http://patents.aaaa.org/).
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