Patent Infringement Cases Never Go To Trial, Yet Somehow Cost Billions of Dollars

Having recently tried a patent infringement case to a jury, I was amused by this article in IP Law & Business pointing out that patent cases are almost never tried and few patent lawyers have actually tried a case to a jury. The key statistic is here, in this line in the article: “there were only 102 jury trials about patent disputes in 2006, out of 2,830 such cases filed, according to the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts.” I had a lot of fun trying the case, and am circulating an article for publication based on lessons learned from it, but given these numbers, I can only wonder how soon it will be before I get another one past the hurdles of settlement and summary judgment, and into trial.

On a more substantive note, this article here recounts the research of James Bessen, a lecturer at Boston University Law School, who has found that the costs of patent infringement litigation actually exceed the economic value across all industries of patenting inventions. That’s a lot of legal fees, for a field of litigation that almost never gives rise to a trial. More interestingly, Bessen has gathered statistics suggesting that for many industries and many business people, pursuing patents may not be a profitable, or even useful, business strategy. His data points towards something we already know, which is that for those industries, such as the pharmaceutical industry, where holding exclusive rights on a product is crucial, the patent system drives both innovation and large profits, but that for decision makers in other industries, seeking a patent may not always be the best way to proceed with regard to a given product. Certainly though, for the individual inventor, it is probably the necessary first step to ever being able to successfully maintain marketplace control and exploitation of an invention, no matter if, across the economic universe as a whole, businesses may spend more money litigating patent disputes than they earn off of patents.