Don't Feed the Trolls

Les Nouvelles, pp. 487-495, 2007

9 Pages Posted: 6 Apr 2009

See all articles by John H. Johnson

John H. Johnson

Edgeworth Economics

Gregory K. Leonard

Charles River Associates

Christine Meyer

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Ken Serwin


Date Written: September 2007


Many vociferous opponents to patent trolls claim that trolls are a drag on society. Patent trolls are accused of using the patent system to extort unreasonable royalty payments from companies who benefit the economy by developing products that consumers want. The extortionary royalty payments, it is said, constitute a "tax" that ultimately leads to less product development and higher prices for consumers.

But, is there an economic case to be made against trolls? Would society be better off without them? In this paper, we examine a range of issues surrounding patent trolls. We begin by defining what kind of patent owner qualifies as a troll; we find that the answer to this question is not so clear-cut. We then seek to understand the effects of troll activity on innovation. Next, we consider the question of whether or not trolls should be allowed to exclude from the market entities that produce goods that embody their patents, in light of the recent Supreme Court opinion in MercExchange v. eBay. Finally, we discuss competing considerations regarding the ultimate public policy question-what can be said about whether restrictions, or a downright prohibition, on trolls would increase or decrease social welfare?

Suggested Citation

Johnson, John H. and Leonard, Gregory K. and Meyer, Christine and Serwin, Ken, Don't Feed the Trolls (September 2007). Les Nouvelles, pp. 487-495, 2007, Available at SSRN:

John H. Johnson (Contact Author)

Edgeworth Economics ( email )

1111 19th Street NW
Suite 200
Washington, DC 20036
United States


Gregory K. Leonard

Charles River Associates ( email )

601 12th Street
Ste. 1500
Oakland, CA 94607
United States
510-595-2706 (Phone)

Christine Meyer

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Ken Serwin

LECG, LLC ( email )

United States

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