Patent troll statistics, a correction

In a post on Friday I mentioned that in 2012, businesses and individuals targeted by patent aggregators and patent holding companies accounted for fifty-six percent of all patent defendants. That number should actually be 37.8% of all patent defendants. 

There are estimates of even higher numbers, see Colleen Chien, Patent Trolls by the Numbers reporting RPX’s estimate that  PAEs initiated 62% of all patent litigation suits in 2012. However, it is not exactly clear how RPX determines who is and is not a patent troll. Also RPX is in the business of providing “patent risk management services”, so it is not exactly a disinterested bystander in the patent troll debate.

Christopher A. Cotropia, Jay P. Kesan & David L. Schwartz, Unpacking Patent Assertion Entities (PAEs) have provided some great data on this issue – but it still needs to be read carefully to understand what it means.

Figure 3 of that paper reports patent litigation numbers in terms of the number of individual defendants sued.

On this metric:

  • suits by large aggregators and patent holding companies increased from 31.6% of all patent litigation in 2010 to 37.8% in 2012;
  • in contrast suits by operating companies went down from 48.9% in 2010 to 47.3% in 2012;
  • if you include the IP holding companies of operating companies, suits by operating companies went down from 51.0% in 2010 to 47.8% in 2012;

Cotropia, Kesan & Schwartz round out this picture by reporting the numbers for universities & colleges, individuals & family trusts, failed operating companies & failed start-ups, and technology development companies. Some of these suits may be troll litigation, but without case specific information it is hard to tell.