Big jump in U.S. patent infringement cases in 2013 despite reform -experts

WASHINGTON Tue May 13, 2014 4:11pm EDT

WASHINGTON May 13 (Reuters) - The number of new patent infringement lawsuits in the United States rose more than 10 percent to 6,092 in 2013 despite a 2011 law specifically aimed at reducing patent litigation, according to experts at the analytics group Lex Machina.

The number of lawsuits in 2013 increased 12.4 percent from 2012 despite the America Invents Act, which was the most significant overhaul of the patent system in decades.

"If the AIA's intention was to make the patent litigation system predictable and less expensive, it hasn't met those goals yet," said Owen Byrd, general counsel of Lex Machina which collects and crunches data on patent litigation. The group issued a study on Tuesday.

Byrd and Lex Machina Chief Executive Josh Becker said they believed that the 2013 total was a record for infringement lawsuits.

The U.S. Congress is trying again to make changes to the patent system to reduce frivolous litigation, but progress seems to have stalled after the House of Representatives passed a bill in December.

The Lex Machina study found that tech companies such as Apple Inc, Amazon.com Inc, AT&T Inc and Google Inc were the most likely to be sued.

The 10 most active plaintiffs were patent assertion entities, who critics disparagingly call patent trolls, because they make their money off lawsuits and licensing instead of manufacturing. The top three were Melvino and ArrivalStar; Wyncomm; and Thermolife International. Each filed more than 100 infringement lawsuits, Lex Machina found.

The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas continued to attract the heaviest traffic, with 1,495 infringement cases filed there in 2013, a 20 percent increase over 2012, according to the study.

A single judge in that district had more than 900 cases in 2013, Lex Machina found.

Companies usually file infringement lawsuits in district courts to win monetary damages and often file a second lawsuit at the U.S. government's International Trade Commission, which can block infringing products from the U.S. market.

The ITC had seen a big spike in cases filed in 2011, to 70. But the number has fallen to 42 new cases in 2012 and 41 in 2013. (Reporting by Diane Bartz; Editing by Mohammad Zargham)

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