Quiz: Could you survive among the patent trolls?
By: John Kelly
Image: MJ Rivise Patent Collection/Hulton Archive/Getty Images
About This Quiz
These days, high-tech innovators have to be able to navigate the tricky world of patent litigation. Would you be ready if a patent troll came knocking?
What is a patent troll?
a company that makes money licensing patents
a company that produces no products
Both of these definitions apply to patent trolls.
What is a more polite term for a patent troll?
They are known as nonpracticing entities (NPEs).
The U.S. Patent & Trademark Office was established in which decade?
The Patent Office was set up in the 1790s.
When did the U.S. Patent Office begin patenting computer software?
The courts ordered the Patent Office to issue software patents in 1998.
True or false: Patents were never licensed until patent trolls came along.
Patent licensing goes back to the 19th century.
In 1895, George B. Selden took out a patent for what device?
Selden was awarded an early patent for the auto in 1895.
According to a Boston University School of Law study, patent suits cost targeted companies a total of how much over 20 years?
The loss in company value resulting from the suits was $500 billion.
According to the Boston University study, what percentage of the losses sustained by companies targeted by patent suits wound up in the pockets of inventors?
The study found that only 2 percent of what lawsuit defendants lost went to inventors.
Patent trolls mainly target which industry?
Most patent troll targets are high-tech companies.
Which court is considered most sympathetic to plaintiffs in patent cases?
District Court for the Eastern District of Texas
Many patent trolls file their suits in East Texas because their odds are better there.
What portion of patents contested in court are invalidated?
A full 40 percent of challenged patents are found invalid.
Patents that are vague about what they cover are referred to as what?
Vague patents are often called "fuzzy."
What is the approximate number of patents applied for in a year?
Inventors apply for more than half a million patents each year.
About how much does it cost to apply for a patent?
Patent application fees total up to nearly $25,000.
How much time do Patent Office inspectors spend evaluating each patent application?
Inspectors spend an average of only 16 hours looking over an application before making a decision.
How many patents cover the technology that makes a smartphone work?
More than 250,000 patents cover all the components of a smartphone.
According to patent troll advocates, what advantages do they offer inventors?
They hire lots of inventors.
They license technology to inventors.
They give inventors a place to sell their ideas.
The trolls say they provide a liquid market where inventors can sell ideas.
What portion of patent suits are settled out of court?
As many as 97 percent of patent suits are settled before trial.
True or fase: Patent trolls usually target companies as soon as they are issued a patent.
The trolls wait for the target company to develop a successful product.
What have large technology companies done to protect themselves against patent trolls?
purchased their own portfolios of patents
Large technology companies have amassed their own large portfolios of purchased patents to protect themselves from patent troll attacks.
stopped using patented technology
increased their research budgets
MJ Rivise Patent Collection/Hulton Archive/Getty Images