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Abuse of patent litigation

The term "patent trolls" is a derogatory one used to describe those who file patent applications in as general a manner as possible and have no intention of actually using the patents except as a way to threaten to sue other purported users. The abuses have forced many business groups to call for the reform of patent laws in an effort to lower the incidence of business litigation.

Legislation has been proposed that is intended to protect end users of a product. Current laws allow the users of a product that is an infringement of a patent violation to be sued. The proposed legislation would change that by restricting legal action to the company or individual who created the product or service.

Even if the legislation passes, businesses will continue to be vulnerable to legal action over intellectual property. It's important to be proactive. Before any product or service goes on the market, an extensive search should be conducted through the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. Some companies are now offering intellectual property insurance, which would protect a business that is the target of an infringement lawsuit. Coverage would require the business to show that it conducted a search and concluded the item or service didn't violate any existing patents or trademarks.

Intellectual property is an important asset to many businesses. A company that is in the process of developing a patent or trademark may wish to speak with a business and commercial attorney who has experience in such matters. The attorney may be able to help the company perfect and protect its rights in and to the property.

Source: Forbes, "3 Measures Small Businesses Should Take To Avoid Patent Trolls", Drew Hendricks, September 30, 2013

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