Patent Trolls Have Bled $500 Billion From The Economy

Throw Etsy onto the patent trolling pile: they just got sued by one because they dared, DARED, to use technology that involved transmitting messages and to have investors that gave them enough money to make them a target.

We often rail about patent trolling around here, for two reasons: one, it limits innovation by letting the slimy and the lazy sit on a patent and raise the barriers to entry to founding a successful company on the Internet, and two, it sucks money out of the economy.

There’s a Boston University study on the topic, but a few key points:

  • Since 1990, patent trolls have collected $500 billion.
  • The amount of money going to patent trolls is steadily rising: $83 billion this year.
  • $83 billion is roughly a quarter of what’s spent on private research and development in the United States.
  • A patent trolling suit can cost a company $20 million in market capitalization. For contrast, that’s half of what Etsy collected in investment.
  • The original patent holders get screwed to boot: of the $88 billion collected over a year or two in the study, $7.6 billion went to the actual patent holder.

In short, patent trolling is greed at its worst. We’d tell patent trolls to be ashamed of themselves, but we’re assuming they’re beyond shame at this point.

(Image courtesy rhastings on Flickr)