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Government Accountability Office, Intellectual Property: Assessing Factors That Affect Patent Infringement Litigation Could Help Improve Patent Quality (GAO-13-465) (Aug. 22, 2013) (full-text).


Legal commentators, technology companies, Congress, and others have raised questions about patent infringement lawsuits by entities that own patents but do not make products. Such entities may include universities licensing patents developed by university research, companies focused on licensing patents they developed, or companies that buy patents from others for the purposes of asserting the patents for profit.

Section 34 of America Invents Act (AIA) mandated that the GAO conduct a study on the consequences of patent litigation by nonpracticing entities (NPEs). This report examines (1) the volume and characteristics of recent patent litigation activity; (2) views of stakeholders knowledgeable in patent litigation on key factors that have contributed to recent patent litigation; (3) what developments in the judicial system may affect patent litigation; and (4) what actions, if any, the PTO has recently taken that may affect patent litigation in the future.

The GAO recommended that the Secretary of Commerce should direct the Director of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) to consider examining trends in patent infringement litigation, including the types of patents and issues in dispute, and to consider linking this information to internal data on patent examination to improve the quality of issued patents and the patent examination process.