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Famed Patent Firm Backs Study On Touchy Subject

Publication Date: 
February 04, 2009
Market Watch
John Letzing

Professor Mark A. Lemley is quoted in a story by Market Watch about a study of "patent trolls" conducted by the IP Litigation Clearinghouse and sponsored by Myhrvold's Intellectual Ventures:

Nathan Myhrvold, a former high-ranking Microsoft Corp. executive turned intellectual property mogul, is sponsoring a forthcoming study that aims to resolve a thorny legal issue: Who's responsible for flooding U.S. courts with a torrent of patent litigation over the past decade? It's an ambitious project, but one also likely to elicit a good deal of cynicism.


... Some are skeptical of the forthcoming study, which is being undertaken in collaboration with Stanford University Law Professor Mark Lemley. If the study finds that non-practicing entities have played a relatively minor role in the rise of litigation, it is likely to raise questions, given the involvement of Intellectual Ventures.


Possibly in anticipation of skepticism, Intellectual Ventures chose to team with Stanford's Lemley, who is a known advocate of reforming the patent system in ways that could make it more difficult for non-practicing entities to continue filing a large number of lawsuits.

Lemley noted that he and Myhrvold are recognized as having "very different priorities" when it comes to idea of reforming the patent system.

"I tend to be an advocate of patent reform, while Nathan is generally more skeptical," Lemley said. "If we collaborate on a project together it will... be harder for critics to say that it has just one point of view."


Lemley said that he's seen estimates on the number of suits filed by non-practicing entities that range wildly, from 2% to 50% of all patent litigation. In addition, many struggle even to define what makes a so-called "patent troll" that acquires patents to use in court, and what makes a legitimate non-practicing entity.

"There is some gray area," Lemley said, "What do you do about an IP-holding subsidiary of a company?"