Patent reform is an important policy topic in the United States today, particularly in the software, technology, and service industries where Intellectual Property (IP) is a key asset. High litigation costs in patent infringement cases favor licensing agreements and financial settlements, regardless of the actual merits of the case. Some argue that non-practicing entities, who have no production interests, harm innovative activity though aggressive licensing and costly litigation. Others believe that non-practicing entities facilitate innovation by licensing to companies that develop and manufacture new products, creating jobs and economic growth. This research will survey companies to gain information on the true value of patent licensing, with a focus on licenses from non-practicing entities. Data will be collected on how often licensing actually leads to innovation, technology transfer, and new technical knowledge. The results will inform patent reform as Congress and numerous state legislatures require reliable to maintain the strength of American innovation system.
Detailed company surveys are among the best options for eliciting new information in patent policy research, given that most patent disputes do not progress to the litigation stage and therefore are not captured in existing legal databases. In fact, some 90% of patent enforcement activity may take place outside of court proceedings. Further, companies are unwilling to discuss agreements publicly because of non-disclosure agreements and fears of retaliation. This research will result in the creation of a large data set that can be used for other projects focusing on patent licensing and royalty agreements.