Can Small Firms Mitigate their Disadvantages in Patent Litigation?

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Academic Paper
Title Can Small Firms Mitigate their Disadvantages in Patent Litigation?
Author Ed Egan
RAs Amir Kazempour
Status Tabled
©, 2016

Return to Patent Data (Wiki Page).


The Little Guy Academic Paper will focus on the patent litigation disadvantages faced by small firms and if/how they can be overcome. By using the patent data provided by the USPTO micro and small entities will be identified based on maintenance fees paid to the USPTO. Patent portfolios of all firms contained in both datasets will be constructed, taking into account renewals and reassignments. Comparisons will be draw between frequency and outcomes of litigation for micro, small, and large. Data on patent litigation will be acquired through the Lex Machina database. We will then explore changes in litigation frequency when small firms are venture backed, are acquired, or transfer their patents to a market intermediary.


The `Little Guy' paper will try to investigate potential asymmetries in patent litigations involving `small' firms. The asymmetries could arise in pre-judgment settlements or post-judgement outcomes. One hypothesis is that `small' patent holders are at a disadvantage in protecting their patent rights.

The only other major work we are aware of which looks into this is (\cite{lanjouw2004protecting}). The authors try to show that small patentees are at a significant disadvantage in protecting their patent rights since their greater litigation risk is not offset by more rapid resolution of their suit. Our study would distinguish itself by providing a new definition of small firms - in (\cite{lanjouw2004protecting})is defined to be those firms with an employment below the median of 5,245 employees, which is not small - and using of a richer data set that considers backing of small firms and patent reassignment.

Our data set is gathered from multiple sources including USPTO Bulk Data, VentureXpert, Lex Machina, and our own data on IPRs, etc.


Introduction of the America Invents Acts provides the small companies which qualify for a Micro Entity status to pay a discounted fee for maintenance of their patents. The maintenance fee code recorded in data would be used to identify the little guys. We believe micro entity status would better fit the definition of a small entity used in our paper. Relying on maintenance fee codes would enable us to identify a small subset of micro entities, however, we are trying to retroactively identify other companies which may qualify for micro entity status but were not captured through the maintenance fee data.

Our analysis would heavily rely on the litigation data available through Pacer or Lex Machina data set. Ideally, we would like to have the following variables for the time frame of 2000-01-01 to present for all the patent cases (code 830) litigated in district courts.