Thursday, September 26, 2013 | 8:02 AM
As the European Union moves towards a unified patent system, we’re excited about the prospects for a harmonised patent regime that promotes efficiency and long-term competitiveness.
After all, the whole point of a patent system is to promote innovation. Patents encourage inventors to publicly disclose their inventions, sharing knowledge and spurring further progress while recouping their investment.
But in the United States, the abuse of dubious patents is having the opposite effect, impeding innovation and harming consumers. Patent trolls - litigation shops that use questionable patents to extort money from productive companies—are placing a huge drag on innovation. Trolls use the threat of expensive and extended litigation to extract settlements, regardless of the merits of their claims.
The economic impact of patent troll litigation has been enormous, draining an estimated $29 billion in direct costs from productive enterprises in 2011 alone. Over the years Google has faced down hundreds of patent claims, mostly from patent trolls, but only after paying millions of dollars in legal fees.
Europe now has a clear opportunity to adopt rules that limit the risk of fostering patent trolling in Europe. Patent trolls have no real business interests to defend. So, at the very least, trolls should have to prove their patents are actually valid and consumer harms should be considered before giving trolls blocking orders that would impact 500 million Europeans.
Today, we’ve joined 16 European and U.S. companies, including Adidas, Deutsche Telekom, Apple and Microsoft in an open letter, suggesting improvements to the Unified Patent Court’s proposed rules. These fixes will help the EU system avoid the issues that have plagued the U.S. and will ensure companies are investing in innovation and growth—not patent litigation.