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Dealing With Patent Litigation as a Small Business

Is your business stifled by patent litigation? While patent laws are suppose to protect your intellectual property, many “patent trolls” have used these laws to make money. These trolls often harass legitimate businesses by buying up patents and suing people for infringement when they have no plans of developing the product themselves. Patent litigation is expensive, and it hurts the nation’s small businesses and startups by slowing down the development process. Small businesses often lack the financial resources to fight these patent trolls, and are forced to accept out-of-court settlements.

Even with the America Invents Act of 2011, which tried to fix some of these problems, small businesses will be forced to defend what is relatively expensive and complex litigation. Here are some patent litigation tips for small businesses:

• Purchase insurance for patent litigation.
• File, obtain, and amass a patent portfolio of your own, so that when you are sued, you can either sue them back or try to obtain cross-licenses.
• Start your diligence early and identify potential infringement issues early on, prior to the product conception stage.
• Find and explore patents you may be infringing upon by searching for relevant patents via the United States Patent and Trademark Office.
• Review your competitor’s products and see if their products are marked with a patent number (i.e. U.S. Patent No. 6,715,541). Contact your competitors for licensing possibilities if necessary.
• Wait until you have done your diligence before going public with your products or services. If no one knows about your product, it is unlikely that you will be sued.
• Patent owners, prior to filing an infringement suit, will provide notice in the form of a cease and desist letter. This is generally a good opportunity to informally resolve the matter (i.e. through cross-licenses or licensing agreements) without a lawsuit.
• Ask a patent lawyer to do a patent evaluation or infringement review.

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