The headline news is that 2015 was the second-highest US
patent litigation year ever, as I analysed in
my story published today (subscription or a trial needed to
According to figures from the Docket Navigator
database, some 5,774 patent cases were filed in US district
courts in 2015. This was 15% higher than the 5,006 cases filed
in 2014, but 5% lower than the 6,094 cases filed in the record
In addition, NPEs increased their share of the patent cases
filed in district courts, according to a study
released by Unified Patents this week.
Unlike for district court patent cases, last year
was a record year for Patent Trial and Appeal Board
(PTAB) filing, with 1,797 petitions. This was up 7% on the
1,677 filed in 2014. Some 92% of the PTAB petitions filed last
year were inter partes review (IPR) petitions.
This record year proves how popular the PTAB has become in
the past few years. The pace of PTAB filing slowed near the end
of the year, however. The number of fourth quarter petitions
was a 9% drop on the third quarter and was down 20% on the
fourth quarter of 2014.
Managing IP will be running detailed analyses of 2015 US
patent litigation and PTAB filing in the coming weeks,
revealing the biggest filers, defendants, law firms and more,
so keep a look out for that.
Looking ahead to 2016
The increase in patent litigation has surprised some. In
a blog post this week, Erich Spangenberg gave his
predictions for the year ahead while also grading his
predictions for last year. He gave himself an "F" for his
prediction that patent lawsuits will continue to decline but an
"A" for predicting that IPRs will increase but not for the
reasons most think.
Spangenberg believes that 2016 will see the bottom of the IP
market, which has been in disarray since 2010. The America
Invents Act, Alice v CLS Bank, and other Supreme Court and
Federal Circuit decisions have created great uncertainty for
patent owners, not to mention the continued focus on patent
reform in Congress.
"It’s no surprise, then, that the
billion-dollar-plus patent deals or patent-driven M&A
activity we saw back in 2011 and 2012 seem like relics of the
distant past," says Spangenberg. "I predict that in 2016
we’ll see an event that in hindsight will be
acknowledged as the bottom of the fall and the beginning of the
He said there are lots of potential candidates for what that
event may be, including a potential sale of Intellectual
Ventures and its 70,000 at market bottom prices ("Yes, the
company denies it’s for sale… but so what?"
asks Spangenberg), an IP investment fund exiting, patent
assertion entities going bust, or a big IP-based transaction
"We’ve had a bull market in patents for over 25
years. Nothing lasts forever; we were due for a bad five years
to correct the imbalance," says Spangenberg.
He identified several things likely to contribute to the
recovery, including it becoming easier to enforce patents in
China and the Unified Patent Court becoming a reality in late
2016. "Most importantly, many large patent owners are starting
to wake up to the fact that what’s good for Google
is not necessarily good for them," said Spangenberg.
He concluded: "As a result, by the end of 2016 I expect to
see a stronger patent market, with both increased transaction
volume and higher prices."
What do you think? Is Spangenberg’s assessment
of 2016 right? What will be the big issues for the
Other blogs have also been assessing what 2016 holds in
store. The IP Watchdog blog canvassed a number of IP
practitioners for their patent and trade secret wishes for 2016
an enjoyable post. Drinker Biddle’s Bob Stoll
noted the importance of this year’s US
presidential election. He too noted a change in mood around
"The pendulum is already beginning to swing back towards our
historical roots that recognize the importance of strong patent
protection as an engine for economic growth and I predict that
2016 will set the stage, with modest improvements for patent
holders, for more sweeping changes in 2017," said