Study: Intellectual Property Abuses Threaten Innovation, Cost Consumers Billions

Published February 10, 2015

New Heartland Institute Policy Brief Explains
‘Why Patent Reforms Are Needed’

CHICAGO – “Patent trolls” are harming the U.S. economy by interfering with market competition and impeding entrepreneurs and innovators – which means consumers see higher prices and fewer of the products and features they demand, according to a new Policy Brief released today by The Heartland Institute.

Much of the debate today over patent reform centers on how to make patent defense easier and less onerous for defendants without undermining legitimate patent claimants, writes Steven Titch, a policy advisor at The Heartland Institute and author of “Why Patent Reforms are Needed: Intellectual Property Abuses Threaten Innovation, Cost Consumers Billions.” The solution must not unfairly classify certain patent holders, such as universities, as trolls simply because they hold patents without manufacturing goods.

A careful balance of interests is achievable, as demonstrated by the cooperation of Republicans and Democrats such as Sens. John Cornyn and Charles Schumer, in addition to White House support and federal judicial action promoting stronger patents and more definite infringement standards.

“Patent reform presents a great opportunity for bipartisan action,” Titch said. “Patent trolls have cost U.S. businesses $80 billion. This won’t stop until Congress and the White House make it tougher for patent assertion entities to press infringement cases based on generalities and vague language.

“Sound policy will strengthen the USPTO’s [U.S. Patent and Trademark Office] ability to evaluate the quality of patent applications and the scope of technology they actually cover,” Titch said. “Congress can help by creating a structure that penalizes frivolous lawsuits, such as ‘loser-pays’ provisions. These will weed out trolls but protect plaintiffs with legitimate complaints.”

Click the link below to download a free PDF of the Policy Brief, “Why Patent Reforms Are Needed: Intellectual Property Abuses Threaten Innovation and Cost Consumers Billions.”

To schedule an interview with Steven Titch, please contact Jim Lakely, director of communications at The Heartland Institute, at 312/731-9364 (cell) or [email protected].


Some of the key findings of “Why Patent Reforms Are Needed: Intellectual Property Abuses Threaten Innovation and Cost Consumers Billions”:

  • In 2013, almost 6,500 patent lawsuits were filed in the United States. Suits filed by patent assertion entities (PAEs) accounted for 67 percent of them, up from 28 percent five years ago, according to a 2014 patent litigation study by PricewaterhouseCoopers. The median damages award in 2013 was $4.3 million.
  • In 2008, the American Intellectual Property Law Association put the median cost of defending a patent claim at $600,000 in cases where less than $1 million was at risk. The median cost in major patent cases was $5 million.
  • Frivolous patent litigation costs U.S. businesses $29 billion a year in direct costs and $80 billion in indirect costs.


Specific recommendations for reform include:

  • Federal legislation should empower the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) to better address the changing nature of patents, particularly regarding software. USPTO needs to better understand methodologies and mechanisms in the way software is written.
  • The White House, through the U.S. Commerce Department and U.S. Trade Representative’s Office, should use the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership and the Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations to address the growing problem of state-sponsored patent trolling.
  • Regulatory bodies, such as the Federal Communications Commission, that set standards necessary for the interoperability of devices, should avoid heavy reliance on patented technology. These decisions result in a government-mandated monopoly that leads to overpricing of licenses, as seen with the ATSC television standard.

The complete paper, “Why Patent Reforms Are Needed: Intellectual Property Abuses Threaten Innovation and Cost Consumers Billions,” can be found here on The Heartland Institute’s Web site.

The Heartland Institute is a 31-year-old national nonprofit organization headquartered in Chicago, Illinois. Its mission is to discover, develop, and promote free-market solutions to social and economic problems. For more information, visit our Web site or call 312/377-4000.