NYU Law’s Engelberg Center on Innovation Law and Policy announced today that it will serve as one of several partners of the Electronic Frontier Foundation in a new project called Trolling Effects. Engelberg Center Executive Director Christopher Wong explained: “Trolling Effects is a resource to empower would-be victims of patent trolls through a crowdsourced database of patent demand letters and a clearinghouse for information on the troll epidemic.”

So-called patent trolls acquire patents, not for the purpose of creating a product or service, but instead, through actual or threatened litigation, to demand licensing fees from others who they allege are infringing the patents. According to the New York Times, trolls (or “patent assertion and licensing entities,” as they are more neutrally known) were behind more than 60 percent of the roughly 4,000 patent lawsuits filed in 2012. Critics say such lawsuits are often frivolous and act as a tax on innovation, and last month the Obama Administration took steps to rein in such litigation.

The Trolling Effects website allows recipients of licensing fee demand letters to post the documents online, find letters received by others, and research who is really behind the threats (since trolls often operate through shell companies). The site also features comprehensive guides to the patent system and a blueprint for patent reform. Journalists, academics, and policy makers may also access Trolling Effect's data for researching the patent system.

Posted on July 31, 2013