About a decade ago, there was a huge uproar over ‘patent trolls,’ also known as ‘non-practicing entities’ – companies that did not make products but that owned patents.  The business model of the patent troll was to sue or threaten infringers and to collect patent infringement damages.  The coordinated attack on the U.S. patent system in the name of defeating patent trolls led to the unfortunate “America Invents Act”.

Enter Caltech.

Caltech, the California Institute of Technology, owns patents.  A lot of patents – the fruit of the labor of its eminently talented employees.  In 2020, Caltech won a jury verdict against Apple and Broadcom for $1.1 billion for infringement of WiFi technology patents owned by Caltech.  That’s the sixth largest patent verdict of all time.  Caltech is now pursuing Samsung, Microsoft and HP, Inc. for infringement of the same patents.

$1.1 Billion.  That’s a lot of money for anyone and it makes a great headline, but the Apple/Broadcom WiFi verdict looks wobbly on appeal.  

Nonetheless, patent infringement lawsuits by universities have become a business, financed not by the university but by private litigation funders, much to the concern of some.

— Robert Yarbrough, Esq.

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