Eppenauer, Harmon and Mulgrew Discuss Use of IPR to Combat Patent Trolls

The Puget Sound Business Journal's TechFlash blog featured Shook, Hardy & Bacon Seattle Partners Bart Eppenauer, Bill Harmon and John Mulgrew in a December 8, 2014, article discussing how the inter partes review (IPR) system has reduced the number of infringement claims filed by companies that acquire patents only to use them as leverage against major technology firms. Known as patent trolls, these types of entities are responsible for "the 'constant' barrage of infringement claims targeting companies like Microsoft," where Eppenauer served as chief patent counsel, Harmon as assistant general counsel and Mulgrew as associate general counsel. As the latter explained, "If they make money on it, they're going to continue doing it. … That process [fighting off claims] can be very burdensome and time consuming and expensive. It's a distraction from what the business is there to do. It's not there to respond to threats, it's there to make product."

Since its implementation in 2012, the IPR system has helped "stop patent trolls dead in their tracks" by allowing companies to request an official review to determine whether patents are being properly interpreted. "It's definitely a positive direction but it's still a big problem," Eppenauer said. "If you look at the trend lines, it's coming down off the peak from maybe a year or two ago. But it's still a very significant problem for companies that's not going away any time soon. But it's moving in a good direction."