Despite being one of the tech industry’s largest policy initiatives this past year, patent reform remains a mystery to many Americans.

A new Morning Consult poll shows that only a quarter of registered voters are familiar with the definition of “patent troll.” A plurality, 45 percent, could not identify the correct description: a company that sues other companies for infringing on patents they own.

However, familiarity with the term increased based on levels of education. Thirty-four percent of respondents with academic experience beyond college identified the correct definition, compared with 22 percent of those who did not receive an undergraduate degree.

Patent Troll Education reduced


Morning Consult surveyed 1,385 registered voters nationwide from Dec. 6 through Dec. 9. The margin of error is plus or minus 2.6 percentage points.

Patent trolls, also known as “non-practicing entities,” have plagued tech companies for the past two decades. Patent trolling cost U.S. companies $29 billion in direct legal fees in 2011, according to a Boston University study. Firms on the losing end of patent trolling lawsuits in 2013 ended up spending $211 million less on average for research and development than firms that emerged victorious, according to an estimate by Harvard University and the University of Texas.

Federal legislation aimed at reining in patent trolls is likely to emerge during the 114th Congress. The White House has signaled a desire to tackle the issue, suggesting high prospects for patent reform as early as next year.

Morning Consult