Patent Troll

What Does Patent Troll Mean?

A patent troll is a person or company that buys patents solely for enforcement in court against alleged infringers. In many cases, patent trolls do not intend to further develop or sell the patented technology but use the patent as a way to increase profits in the form of licensing fees or reparations.


Tech companies are increasingly spending more time and money defending themselves in court against patent infringement lawsuits. These lawsuits often pit one tech company against another, but these suits are also initiated by trolls or firms that exist mainly to buy and enforce the patents of other people.

A patent troll’s litigious actions may be referred to as patent trolling.

Techopedia Explains Patent Troll

Patent lawsuits are especially common in the tech world for a few reasons, one being that software is patented, rather than copyrighted. The language used in software patents also tends to be more abstract than that of pharmaceuticals, for example. When aggressive patent litigation emerged in the 1990s, many companies – most notably, Microsoft – paid hundreds of millions of dollars in settlements and awards.

As a result, many tech companies started amassing patent stockpiles to help protect themselves against litigation. These stockpiles, known as defensive patents, can help prevent suits between companies because each has enough patents to repeatedly sue the other. This is what occurred when Yahoo sued Facebook for patent infringement on 10 patents in March 2012. Rather than settling, Facebook countersued with 10 of its patents.


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Margaret Rouse
Technology Expert

Margaret is an award-winning technical writer and teacher known for her ability to explain complex technical subjects to a non-technical business audience. Over the past twenty years, her IT definitions have been published by Que in an encyclopedia of technology terms and cited in articles by the New York Times, Time Magazine, USA Today, ZDNet, PC Magazine, and Discovery Magazine. She joined Techopedia in 2011. Margaret's idea of a fun day is helping IT and business professionals learn to speak each other’s highly specialized languages.