Trying Times for IP Protection

Intellectual property disputes appear on the upswing as other litigation declines.

There's some good news on the litigation front. According to law firm Fulbright & Jaworski LLP, the number of lawsuits filed against U.S. firms dropped in the past year. The bad news: This good news does not extend to intellectual property disputes.

In fact, "There is a clear sense that patent cases are trending upward," notes Stephen C. Dillard, chair of the firm's global litigation practice. His comments are based on the outcome of Fulbright & Jaworski's latest Litigation Trends Survey. Among the results:

  • One-third of the survey respondents say they've been on the receiving end of at least one patent infringement suit in the past three years. Nearly 40% of them say the pace of filings against them has increased in that same time frame.
  • Twenty-eight percent say they are instigating more patent cases today than three years ago.
  • Billion-dollar firms cite IP/patent disputes as the top concern in their near-term litigation horizon, ahead of labor/employment issues or contract issues, which usually are the top worries.
  • Six percent of billion-dollar firms report defending themselves from at least 30 new patent actions in the past three years.
  • Despite the plethora of litigation, corporate counsel doesn't sue lightly. Indeed, 40% of those who file suit say they prefer to take other actions rather than file suit, while one quarter say they litigate claims as a necessary part of their firm's overall licensing strategy.
  • Eighty-five percent of technology firms report having been named in at least one patent case since 2004.
  • Companies aren't in a hurry to litigate trademark issues. Fewer than one in 10 (7%) say they tend to take trademark cases to court. More than half say they prefer to resolve issues quickly and avoid extended and costly litigation.

These results are based on surveys of in-house corporate counsel at some 300 corporations -- primarily in the U.S.

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