Patent Troll

Written By
Paul Tracy
Updated November 4, 2020

What is a Patent Troll?

A patent troll is a person or company whose main business purpose is to sue other people or companies for patent infringement.

How Does a Patent Troll Work?

For example, John Doe buys a patent for the design and manufacture of a flat, rotating disc used to hold objects on a countertop or other flat surface. John Doe has no intention of manufacturing this item; he simply invests $25,000 to buy the patent and then sues every manufacturer of lazy Susans, record players, CD players, Asian restaurant table manufacturer, and cabinet-organizer manufacturer he can find. John Doe sends a letter to these people that states they are infringing on his patent. John Doe requests payment for the damages or threatens to sue the manufacturer in court.

In many cases, the defendants in patent-troll cases may be in fact infringing on a patent. But usually, the patents are vague and thus apply to nearly any company in business.

Why Does a Patent Troll Matter?

Patent litigation is very expensive, and the trolls know this. They sue because the chances are good that they'll just get a check as a settlement (that is, the troll will offer to settle for a "one-time lifetime licensing fee"); the defendant will probably not want to go through the time and expense of court proceedings.

In some cases, however, companies fight back and win. One famous case involved the computer store Newegg, which was a victim of a patent holder claiming to have a patent on the concept of the online shopping basket. Though the company lost its first court case, it appealed and won.

Activate your free account to unlock our most valuable savings and money-making tips
  • 100% FREE
  • Exclusive money-making tips before we post them to the live site
  • Weekly insights and analysis from our financial experts
  • Free Report - 25 Ways to Save Hundreds on Your Monthly Expenses
  • Free Report - Eliminate Credit Card Debt with these 10 Simple Tricks
Ask an Expert
All of our content is verified for accuracy by Paul Tracy and our team of certified financial experts. We pride ourselves on quality, research, and transparency, and we value your feedback. Below you'll find answers to some of the most common reader questions about Patent Troll.
Be the first to ask a question

If you have a question about Patent Troll, then please ask Paul.

Ask a question

Paul has been a respected figure in the financial markets for more than two decades. Prior to starting InvestingAnswers, Paul founded and managed one of the most influential investment research firms in America, with more than 3 million monthly readers.

If you have a question about Patent Troll, then please ask Paul.

Ask a question Read more from Paul
Paul Tracy - profile
Ask an Expert about Patent Troll

By submitting this form you agree with our Privacy Policy

Don't Know a Financial Term?
Search our library of 4,000+ terms