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I'm a small-scale independent inventor with few resources and have a patent that I believe is being infringed by a large company. I fear that if I approach the company on my own, I will have little leverage in negotiating with them, and I lack the resources to take them to court.

What can I do about an infringer if all I'm a small independent inventor with limited resources other than my patent?

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Assume for purposes of the question that I can be sure the patent is being infringed. –  opo Sep 5 '12 at 20:50
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Perhaps you could tell us the patent number. That would provide some context in which to answer this question. It is a patent, after all, not a secret. –  Steve Taylor Sep 20 '12 at 15:51
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This question almost sounds canonical to me. Providing a patent number would localize the question and therefore decrease its value to this site. –  Tanner Sep 21 '12 at 23:40
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5 Answers

Become a troll. Or join up with one. Or sell out to one. Or sell to someone else who wants your patent for other reasons.

There are now a very large number of investors and attorneys who will help you to monetize your patent - provided they think they can make money from it. Almost all of them would be described as patent trolls, more politely known as "non-practicing entities" or NPEs. These are the guys who provide Davids with slings and stones to go up against Goliaths - for a piece of the action.

For some reasonably accurate background on the term "patent troll", check out the Wikipedia entry: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Patent_troll

BTW, you could also offer to sell your patent to practicing entities other than your suspected infringer in the appropriate technological field. Your patent could be an arrow in the quiver of any entity who contests with the large company that you suspect is infringing your patent.

The principle is much the same in any case - trying to determine a net present value of the patent in the marketplace. Making such a determination has little to do with judging whether your invention is worthy as being original and much more to do with judging how much money can be extracted from the broader world of commerce via ownership of the patent.

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  1. Find patent attorney and figure out best strategy
  2. Let the patent attorney to contact with that company who infringes your patent.
  3. Try to negotiate.
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Be careful. If you send notice to the company accusing them of patent infringement, the company can sue you for a declaratory judgment. Not a good idea to approach them until you are prepared to duke it out in court. –  user96 Sep 10 '12 at 22:23
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This is precisely what Acacia Research does.

If you have an issued patent that is being infringed, then Acacia will assess its value, then if the numbers work, have you transfer ownership of your patent to a separate legal entity (business shell) that both you and Acacia own. Acacia then spends their resources to collect compensation on the intellectual property in behalf of the company both you and Acacia own. Proceeds are then split based on business ownership.

Acacia has sometimes been called a 'patent troll', but they do not file patents for the purpose of trolling, they are more like a personal injury law firm, where clients, like you, come to them with a problem.

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You might want to contact the company first, to see if they will try to settle with you. If not, then you can try the following.

If you lack the resources, I think it would makes sense to team up with someone or a company that does have the resources.

If you have a strong case, and can show they are already in violation, then the person/company with resources may see dollar signs, and be willing to "invest" to aid you.

This could be a separate contract specifying terms, selling part of the patent, or even selling the whole patent. You might also be able to find an IP lawyer who would be willing to work the case for a percent of the result.

Lots of possibilities...

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If you approach the company and communicate to them that they might be infringing your patent, they may be able to sue you for a declaratory judgment of non-infringement (and/or invalidity). If that were to happen (just having the suit brought against you), you'd have virtually no chance of realizing any value out of your patent in time to fund your defense. –  user96 Sep 21 '12 at 0:47
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There are attorneys who take infringement cases on a contingency basis. One I have heard of is General Patent. I attended a presentation they gave at a conference. When asked how they evaluated cases to take on they said one factor was the size and success of the infringement. Someone rips you off for hundreds of millions is more attractive than someone ripped you off for single digit millions. Second was how many different relevant patents you had to bring to play. The infringer might wiggle out of any single patent.

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