Who speaks for the SMEs?


Rory O'Neill

Who speaks for the SMEs?

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SMEs are frequently invoked as the victim in narratives around patent trolls and predatory NPEs. But in major policy debates, there are bigger corporate interests at play. Rory O’Neill reports.

The issue of non-practising entities (NPEs) or ‘patent trolls’ is among the most contentious debates in IP policy. In one narrative, advanced by those who want reforms to inhibit their behaviour, patent trolls are a pervasive threat—preying on small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) with frivolous litigation designed to extract a quick settlement.

But major patent owners have rejected this telling. It is a false narrative, they say, a Trojan horse intended to weaken patent rights and empower infringers.

Each side has produced argument and counter-argument, including empirical data to support their respective accounts. Few deny that patent trolls exist, but the extent to which they pose a threat to SMEs is deeply contested and difficult to verify. In the midst of this debate, SMEs are instrumentalised in order to advance policy positions backed by companies with much greater resources than their own.

SMEs, patent trolls, NPEs, IP policy, litigation, SEPs, Nokia, Ericsson, Orange, European Commission, policies, owners, ACT, DMA, technology, app developer