Is your business aware of patent trolls?

Regardless of the type of business that you run, it is important to be aware of patent trolls. As a smaller business, you may have no idea exactly what a patent troll is. Nevertheless, patent trolls can hinder your company's profits or growth in an effort to serve their own personal needs. Such companies usurp your most prized developments for their own benefit.

As a result, it is imperative to take preventative measures, which can help protect your business against these opportunists. There are a couple of ways you can help steer clear of the legal complications associated with patent trolls.

Patent trolls

The White House has defined patent trolls as essentially the following in a recent report: businesses that do not create products, but nonetheless purchase or own patents and bring legal actions against companies that infringe (from the patent trolls' perspective) on such rights. The idea is to collect licensing fees.

Unfortunately, the trolls are hindering the flow of creative and new technology by suing businesses. This results in companies being locked up by fees in the form of cash settlements or litigation expenses.

Protecting your business

While it seems that America's patent system would automatically protect investors' designs, the trolls are taking advantage of the system. Patent trolls are cutting corners and legally purchasing patents. Unfortunately, they do not even intend to use or sell these creations.

However, your business can search for patents or trademarks on a Web site provided by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. If this is done, you ensure nothing is put out there until your business can confirm that the creation has not already been patented.

It also helps to have intellectual property insurance. Unnecessary patent infringement lawsuits are so frequent that some insurance companies are now actually offering polices, which concern patent lawsuits. This can serve as a financial safety net for legal mishaps.

However, the most important thing that you can do is contact a professional lawyer. If your company receives notification of a lawsuit, the first step is to consult with a legal professional. A seasoned attorney has a comprehensive understanding of relevant laws and can help protect your business in the event of a legal issue.

According to President Barack Obama, patent trolls are known for "leverage[ing] and hijack[ing] somebody else's idea [to] see if they can extort some money out of them." Before your intellectual property is stripped from your hands, contact a patent law lawyer in your area.