Tax the Patent Trolls

USA Today, July 24, 2013

2 Pages Posted: 15 Aug 2013 Last revised: 5 Jun 2015

See all articles by James E. Bessen

James E. Bessen

Technology & Policy Research Initiative, BU School of Law

Brian J. Love

Santa Clara University School of Law

Date Written: July 24, 2013


This essay argues that Congress should increase the size and frequency of patent renewal fees to reduce patent troll activity. Patents owned by trolls are generally old — twelve years on average — when finally asserted in court. Many such patents were originally filed to protect inventions that long ago became obsolete, and today hold value only because they were written so broadly that they arguably can be interpreted to cover technologies developed much later by other inventors. To shackle the dead hand of old inventions, other countries charge patent owners annual fees that must be paid to keep the patent from expiring. This way, only patents directed to truly valuable inventions are kept in force for the full twenty years of the patent term. Obsolete patents expire sooner, generally before they fall into the hands of those who would misuse them. If U.S. renewal fees were increased, trolls' patent holdings would shrink and their expenses would grow.

Keywords: patent troll, PAE, NPE, PME, renewal fees, maintenance fees, patent reform

JEL Classification: O34, K41

Suggested Citation

Bessen, James E. and Love, Brian J., Tax the Patent Trolls (July 24, 2013). USA Today, July 24, 2013, Available at SSRN:

James E. Bessen

Technology & Policy Research Initiative, BU School of Law ( email )

765 Commonwealth Avenue
Boston, MA 02215
United States

Brian J. Love (Contact Author)

Santa Clara University School of Law ( email )

500 El Camino Real
Santa Clara, CA 95053
United States

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