Vincent R. Johnson
It is widely argued that patent trolling is a serious legal problem that needs to be addressed, at least in the United States, where the practice is most prevalent. This paper argues that disclosure requirements and periodic reporting standards have important roles to play in minimizing the costs of patent trolling. This is true for two reasons. First, the targets of trolling often lack basic information that is relevant to their evaluation of the claims against them. To that extent, targets are handicapped in protecting their own interests via litigation, licensing, or other means. Second, policymakers know too little about specialized patent assertion entities and their impact on innovation and technology. This dearth of information needlessly hampers the formulation of legislative solutions to the perceived abuses that result from trolling. Part II describes patent trolling and its estimated costs to society. Part III discusses the nature of possible reforms. Part IV considers deficiencies in patent law that make the legal system vulnerable to trolling. Part V addresses obstacles that constrain reform efforts. Part VI explores two legal options for minimizing the costs of patent trolling: (1) expanded civil liability for deceptive nondisclosure and (2) new registration and reporting requirements similar to those often imposed on lobbyists. Part VII offers a final assessment.