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Don't Let Your Business Become the Victim of Patent Trolls

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Over the last 20 years, the annual number of patent lawsuits has increased dramatically from 500 to over 3,000. This is, in part, due to the heated debate over intellectual property, which was brought into a burning spotlight with the 2010 film The Social Network. Although the film wasn't the first to highlight the importance of intellectual property lawyers, the situation has only become more treacherous for small businesses with the rise of the patent troll.

What is a patent troll?
A patent troll is a pejorative term used in business to describe a company that uses patents as legal weapons. There are more than 520,000 patent applications filed each year in the U.S., and some of those granted are vague, broad, and quite frankly, not very good patents. Patent trolls will seek out failing companies who are looking to monetize leftover resources and buy up some of those patents for extremely low prices. Although they're more expensive than the 1790 standard of four or five dollars, the financial aspect usually isn't a problem for these companies.

How does a patent troll use patents?
After amassing a stockpile of these overarching, vague patents, these patent troll companies will most typically seek out small, independently owned businesses and file a lawsuit against them for patent infringement. In most cases, the smaller businesses can't afford litigation or patent lawyers to help them fight. When this occurs, the patent troll will settle and the lawsuit will be dismissed before it gets a chance to be heard in court. Even companies like Apple and Microsoft have to deal with these frivolous accusations and lawsuits.

How can businesses prevent this?
Although Apple and Microsoft have the power of size and influence, most small business owners do not. However, hiring an intellectual property lawyer can not only help you understand patent law, it can help you learn how to protect your assets and business. A number of small business owners are even taking patent trolls to court, and they're winning. Business owners like this are helping small companies everywhere stand up to patent trolls.

Sometimes patent trolls may seem unavoidable, but if you make yourself knowledgeable about the process of patents and your intellectual property, you can prevent frivolous and false claims against you.

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