Innovation is part of the American way. For centuries, those who came up with new products, ideas and technology have been able to protect their ideas by patenting them against infringement. You might already own the rights to a patent or are considering patenting something you invented. Unfortunately, some inventors and companies in Nevada and other parts of the country might find their dreams shattered by so-called patent trolls.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation explains that patent trolls use the legal system in a way in which it was not intended. Instead of encouraging progress and innovation by coming up with new inventions and products, patent trolls buy the rights to patents and then demand those who use them pay a licensing fee or face legal action. This practice is especially prevalent with patents involving computing technology. You might, for example, develop a new smartphone app, only to be informed by a patent troll that you are infringing on technology it owns.

Computing patent language may be quite vague and broad, which can give a patent troll a great deal of control over new technologies that would not be possible with a simpler invention, such as a kitchen gadget. The app you developed may be unique from other apps on the market, but a patent troll might claim you are infringing on in-app game purchase technology and threaten to sue if you do not pay a licensing fee – which can be exorbitant.

Protecting your rights to a patent or defending yourself against a patent troll is a complex area of law. Therefore, this information should not replace the advice of a lawyer.