Patent Trolls Plauge U.S. and Germany Alike

The Citizen's Guide to the Future
April 9 2012 9:00 AM

Patent Trolls Plauge U.S. and Germany Alike

On Slate today, “Dismal Science” columnist Ray Fisman describes how “patent assertion entities”—trolls—stifle innovation, in effect defeating the whole point of the system. To demonstrate, Fisman discusses the effects of a patent lawsuit related to digital medical records.

As another article today—this one in the New York Times—describes, patent-trolling isn’t unique to the United States. Just as  trolls head to a certain district in East Texas to file their U.S. suits, Germany has become the center of patent litigation in Europe. One law firm told the Times that two-thirds of Europe’s patent claims are filed in Germany. “In a sense, Germany has become a destination for fast, effective one-stop patent challenges, much as Britain is for libel and the state of Delaware is for registration of American companies,” Kevin J. O’Brien writes. The environment has become so unfriendly, O’Brien describes, that Microsoft has elected to move its European base from Germany to the Netherlands, after it became concerned that German litigation would prevent it from selling Windows 7 and Xboxes in Europe altogether.  

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Read more on Slate and the New York Times.

Future Tense is a partnership of SlateNew America, and Arizona State University.

Torie Bosch is the editor of Future Tense, a project of Slate, the New America Foundation, and Arizona State that looks at the implications of new technologies.