Patent Fee Shifting Stops Not Only Patent Trolls But Industry Bullies Too
What may be less well known is that Octane was not itself a “patent troll” case. Rather, Octane involved another kind of abusive patent litigation; namely, a large company asserting a patent it pulled “off the shelf” against a small start-up competitor. While patent trolls gain economic advantage through economies of scale, large companies have economic advantages over smaller competitors by virtue of their size and resources, and can similarly abuse the system. They can use the high cost to defend patent litigation as a competitive weapon, either to force the smaller competitor to exit the market, discontinue a product line, or pay an unwarranted royalty (thereby hindering the competitor in the marketplace). On remand, the District Court in the Octane case recognized just this sort of economic coercion, and found the case exceptional warranting a fee award. And last week, the District Court awarded almost $2 million in fees and costs to Octane, the prevailing accused infringer.