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US GAO 2013 report on patent litigation

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The authors of the 2013 report on Assessing Factors That Affect Patent Infringement Litigation Could Help Improve Patent Quality, published by the US Government Accountability Office (GAO), studied patent litigation in the US from 2000-2010. Most coverage of this report focussed on patent trolls, with patent lawyers saying the report proves trolls aren't a problem, and non-lawyers saying it proves the opposite. But there are also important observations specifically about software patents.

As Michael Meurer puts it, "The GAO study told us there's a serious problem with software patents."[1]

It should be noted that by being limited to litigation, this study ignores harm without litigation or direct threats, which is the biggest source of harm caused by software patents - most notably by blocking use of standards or other forms of compatibility.

But, what problem is Meurer referring to?

An example of a website that paints a sunny picture is patentdocs.com,[2] which interpreted the report as saying that "even though there may have recently been an increase in low-quality patents, particularly related to software, it is not a cause for alarm". Patent docs says the problem of software patent quality is due to "lack of clear terminology in the computer software industry has resulted in the use of unclear terminology in software patents" and later notes that "in November 2011, the Patent Office began working with the software industry to address the issue of non-uniform terminology in software related patents".

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  1. http://comparativepatentremedies.blogspot.be/2014/04/patcon-4-patent-troll-debate.html
  2. http://www.patentdocs.org/2013/08/the-gao-issues-a-report-on-patent-litigation-trends-it-turns-out-that-the-sky-is-not-falling.html


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