Patent trolls play useful role, Stanford researcher finds

March 2, 2015, 10:16 p.m.

Patent trolls may actually serve a valuable role in innovation, according to Stanford political scientist Stephen Haber. Haber, the A.A. and Jeanne Welch Milligan Professor and Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution, found that patent trolls serve as an important bridge between inventors and manufacturers.

Patent trolls, or PAEs, are entities that buy patents and enforce them without any intention of producing the patented product. PAEs have traditionally been much maligned in the media, especially for their tendency towards litigation.

However, Haber has found that PAEs’ litigation may help ensure the inventor’s profits. In selling patents to PAEs, inventors outsource the need to litigate, which might otherwise prove financially burdensome.

“PAEs offer a way for individual inventors to guarantee profits from their patents without having to engage in costly litigation,” Haber told The Stanford Report.

With this new view of PAEs, Haber claims that the United States’ patent system may be the world’s best. Although the U.S. has seen an increase in patent related lawsuits, Haber asserts that this only indicates an increasingly dynamic knowledge economy.

Ultimately, Haber concludes that PAEs, and their niche in the patent system, are often misunderstood.

“It is often simplistically portrayed, and often from the point of view of a large manufacturer,” Haber said.


Contact Michael Gioia at mgioia2 ‘at’


Michael Gioia was Managing Editor of Opinions from Vol. 250-251; he also previously led the News division. He is from Plano, Texas and studied History and Modern Languages at Stanford. When Michael is not working for The Daily, he can generally be found reading or drinking coffee.

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