Do Patent Licensing Demands Mean Innovation?

53 Pages Posted: 16 Feb 2015 Last revised: 13 Nov 2015

See all articles by Robin Feldman

Robin Feldman

University of California Hastings College of the Law

Mark A. Lemley

Stanford Law School

Date Written: February 15, 2015


A commonly offered justification for patent trolls or non-practicing entities (NPEs) is that they serve as a middleman, facilitating innovation and bringing new technology from inventors to those who can implement it. We survey those involved in patent licensing to see how often patent license demands actually led to innovation or technology transfer. We find that very few patent license demands actually lead to new innovation; most simply involve payment for the freedom to keep doing what the licensee was already doing. Surprisingly, this is true not only of NPE licenses but even of licenses from product-producing companies and universities. Our results cast significant doubt on one common justification for patent trolls.

Keywords: patent, patents, troll, trolls, trolling, innovation, empirical, intellectual property

Suggested Citation

Feldman, Robin and Lemley, Mark A., Do Patent Licensing Demands Mean Innovation? (February 15, 2015). Iowa Law Review, Vol. 101, 2015; Stanford Law and Economics Olin Working Paper No. 473; Stanford Public Law Working Paper No. 2565292; UC Hastings Research Paper No. 135. Available at SSRN: or

Robin Feldman (Contact Author)

University of California Hastings College of the Law ( email )

200 McAllister Street
San Francisco, CA 94102
United States

Mark A. Lemley

Stanford Law School ( email )

559 Nathan Abbott Way
Stanford, CA 94305-8610
United States

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