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George Mason University School of Law




The debate over "patent trolls"' is raging at full tilt and its fury is stoked by fundamental questions about patent assertion. Both sides are struggling to understand which patent assertion practices are consistent with the purpose of patent rights and which are abusive and result in net social costs. This Article addresses patent assertion concretely through empirical analysis of actual infringement awards. In particular, this Article studies all awards granted for findings of patent infringement in U.S. district courts between 1995 and 2011, and, with targeted analyses, focuses on cases involving patent assertion entities ("PAEs"). This Article specifically investigates certain principal assumptions about patent assertion which have been raised in the debate and further tests some of the leading policy proposals that are currently being considered. In so doing, this Article seeks to inform the "patent troll" debate and helps answer some of the key questions driving it.

Part I below discusses the background for this study, addressing the current "patent troll" debate and some of the leading reform proposals that have been advanced. Part H describes the dataset used. Part III explains the empirical methodology used and highlights principal findings from previous work analyzing PAE and other nonpracticing entity ("NPE") litigations. Part IV investigates PAE assertion practices directly and analyzes key questions that have been raised in the "patent troll" debate. Part V provides a summary of results and concluding remarks.

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