When you think about patent litigation today, you might picture scurrilous patent trolls lurking about, hoping to sue hapless small companies on frivolous charges of patent infringement.

But a new study on patent infringement, one packed with lots of great data on things like the law firms and courts most involved, pulls back the curtain on fantasy and reveals the role of big businesses in the fast-changing patent law landscape.

The report, produced by legal analytics company Lex Machina, shows that Apple is the most named company in patent infringement cases, and not just as the plaintiff.

In 2013, Apple ranked number eight for plaintiffs with the most patent suits--52 in 2013. It ranked No. 1 as the defendant, as it fended off 59 patents cases in 2013. (Amazon came in second with 50 cases.) After Monsanto, Apple ranked second and third for most damages awarded to it in such cases, with close to a billion dollars from--guess who--Samsung.

2014 is likely to mark a sea change for patent litigation, as both the Supreme Court and Congress actively figure out ways to rein in costly challenges brought by non-practicing entities, or trolls.

A Supreme Court decision earlier this month has made it easier for businesses to pursue monetary damages for frivolous patent claims. Both the House and Senate are working on legislation that would make it more difficult for trolls to sue.

Patent litigation jumped more than 12 percent to 6,092 cases in 2013, LexMachina reports. The district with the most cases was the Eastern District of Texas, with 1,495 cases in 2012, a 20 percent increase over 2012. The Eastern District of Texas court is well-known for its patent and intellectual propety expertise.

Check out the chart below for an idea of how the number of patent cases have increased in the last eight years:

*Source: Lex Machina

Published on: May 15, 2014