' Nicholas Caspers | MTTLR

Patent Trolls Show Immunity to Antitrust: Patent Trolls Unscathed by Antitrust Claims from Tech-Sector Companies

Patent trolls have become a prominent force to be reckoned with for tech-sector companies in the United States, and tech-sector companies’ recent failure in using antitrust law to combat patent trolls indicates a continuation of that prominence. Patent trolls have been quite the thorn in the side of tech-sector companies. The term “patent troll” is the pejorative pop culture title for the group of firms also known as non-practicing entities, patent assertion entities, and patent holding companies. These entities buy patents, not with the purpose of utilizing the patent’s technology, but with the purpose of suing companies for patent infringement. Patent trolls have made up around 85% of patent litigation against tech-sector companies in 2018. Moreover, in comparison to the first four months of 2018, the first four months of 2020 saw a 30% increase in patent litigation from patent trolls. At a high-level, antitrust law appears to be a proper tool for wrangling patent trolls. Antitrust law cracks down on anticompetitive agreements and monopolies for the sake of promoting consumer welfare. Patents are effectively legal monopolies over a claimed invention, and patent trolls use these legal monopolies to instigate frivolous patent infringement lawsuits on companies. Such lawsuits increase litigation and licensing costs for companies who can then push such costs, via increased product prices, onto the downstream consumer. In an attempt to go on the offensive, tech-sector companies have brought antitrust claims against patent trolls. The antitrust claims have operated on one of two theories. In Intellectual Ventures I LLC v. Capital One from 2017, Capital One counterclaimed antitrust remedies on the basis of a patent troll suing...