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Patents, and other forms of intellectual property, are meant to encourage creativity and innovation. That's why if you suspect that someone has infringed on your patent, you have the option of filing a lawsuit against that person. However, there are entities -- referred to as patent trolls -- that make money by suing or threatening to sue businesses for patent infringement.
These patent trolls used to target large companies because they do business in multiple states, which allowed patent trolls to sue them in any state they did business. Patent trolls were even able to find some federal court districts where their odds of winning were greater. However, this changed when the Supreme Court issued a ruling in May 2017 stating that companies could only be sued for patent infringement in the state where they are incorporated.
As a result of the Supreme Court decision, patent trolls have turned their attention to small businesses and startups. The patent trolls simply threaten to sue for patent infringement unless the business pays a sum of money for a "permanent license." Since the sum of money is usually relatively reasonable when compared with defending a lawsuit, the business is usually inclined to pay.
Defending Against Patent Trolls
While paying a fee may same like the easiest options, there are some steps you can take if your business has been threatened with a lawsuit for patent infringement.
Running a small business takes a lot of time and energy and the last thing you want to do is deal with a patent troll. If you've received a letter threatening to sue you for patent infringement, you may want to consult with an experienced intellectual property attorney to get some guidance on what steps you can take to protect your business.