David and Goliath: The challenges with enforcing patents for small firms and entrepreneurs

The purpose of the patent system is to incentivize firms and individuals to innovate. A patent provides the right to exclude other actors from producing or selling the innovation in exchange for fees and for publishing technical information about it. A patent in its own right does not provide any guaranteed protection, rather the patent holder actively has to sue potential infringers. Involvement in such patent litigation processes requires significant economic resources, time and knowledge. Entrepreneurs and small firms generally lack such resources relative to larger firms. Therefore, they may experience significant challenges when enforcing their patent rights or defending themselves as alleged infringers. These problems are documented in previous research. However, we still do not know what problems these resource constraints create and what consequences they have for small firms, their businesses, teams and innovativeness. In this research, we explore these problems for small firms in patent litigation, including their causes and consequences. The research project is executed jointly by the Innovation and IP (IIP) research group at Chalmers University of Technology, and Uppsala University, running from October 2020 to November 2021.

Contact: Marcus Holgersson (marcus.holgersson@chalmers.se)