Software company SAS now has a key role in a new federal effort to stop patent trolls – entities who claim patent infringement to try and collect money from businesses.

In order to determine whether a patent infringement claim is fraud, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office must locate the most closely related prior technical documents, or “prior art.” But patent examiners, who examine thousands of documents a year, can have a hard time finding prior art and they have a limited amount of time to search for it.

SAS, which has previously testified before Congress on the dangers of patent trolls, was  one of several companies asked by the Obama administration to share information with, a company that has partnered with the USPTO to publish, aggregate and analyze technical documentation.convert. SAS, which has a contract with, will convert 38 years of user documentation and technical papers into electronic form. The digitized documents will then be provided to,

“Providing our information to will give patent examiners the ammunition they need to object to questionable patent applications,” said Tim Wilson, SAS Senior Intellectual Property Counsel, who attended the White House patent reform announcement Thursday.

Patent trolls, are more formally referred to as “non-practicing entities.” NPEs don’t make products or provide services file patent infringement suits in an attempt to collect license fees from companies that do. The cost of litigation often forces companies to settle with the NPE. For small companies, it patent litigation can close their doors. According to a 2012 Boston University Study, lawsuits from patent trolls cost $500 billion in lost wealth from 1990 to 2010.

Wilson said SAS has spent millions of dollars successfully defending itself against patent trolls, but he added that that is money that could be better spent on innovating and improving products or hiring new employees. Wilson said one recent case involved a certain software process that SAS and many other software companies provide to customers. The troll made millions from other companies, but SAS and our co-defendants went to court and invalidated the patent. Another group of companies sued by the patent troll included parking lot management companies. Wilson said that by invalidating the patent, SAS saved those companies from having to decide whether to mount an expensive defense or pay off the troll.

“This is not a tech industry problem, it affects all industries, companies big and small,” Wilson said.

PatentFreedom, a company that helps businesses with NPE risks, calculates that patent troll lawsuits have grown by an average of 22 percent per year since 2004. In 2013, a total of 3,716 such lawsuits were filed, PatentFreedom said.

On Thursday. the White House announced three executive actions to continue the fight against patent trolls:

  • Crowdsourcing. The USPTO will crowdsource prior art and explore ways to make it easier for the public to provide information about relevant prior art in patent applications.
  • Technical training. The Administration is calling upon technologists and engineers from industry academia to provide training and expertise to patent examiners regarding the state of the art. Related to that, four regional satellite USPTO offices will be made permanent to make it easier for experts to work with the USPTO in-person or virtually.
  • Assistance. The lack of resources hurts the ability of inventors and small businesses to handle patent litigation. The USPTO will now provide dedicated educational and practical resources to those who lack legal representation and expand the existing pro bono program established by the America Invents Act to cover all 50 states.

The White House’s patent reform announcement was welcomed by the Association for Competitive Technology, a group representing software developers and mid-sized technology companies.

“Improvements in the way that applications are reviewed will help prevent bad patents from being awarded and used against small companies,” the group’s Executive Director Morgan Reed said in a statement. “This makes more sense than trying to fix a broken system at the end of the process to favor big companies and litigation at the expense of startups and innovation.”