It is a little tricky to estimate. I can’t tell you how many it has been licensed for, but I can tell you it has. There were a few things that went through the R&D process that helped make patents more valuable.
First, when a company patented something it would become a valuable asset if a patent holder could take their inventions and make them a little more useful and unique than they would without the patent. The patent would represent a real benefit to the customer, if patent holder had it, than any other use the invention would have on the market.
Second, patents do have a number and that is the number of customers for which the patents could be useful. So if a company does invent something for itself, the patent may not have that many customers. So a company probably would look to others to make it a little more useful than it will be without (i.e., patents are useless to those without them). This is what patents are supposed to accomplish.
So the number of patents we should worry about if we can’t prevent patent trolls from getting away with it?
I think that we should worry about the number of patents that people can take and, if they do, how many good uses they get. One thing worth noting is that as the number of patents per capita increased in the last few decades, so did the number of companies who claimed patents. It seemed like the first few decades (roughly 1960-1980), when the patent pool peaked at around 200 patents per 100,000 people, gave way to the 1980s where the number rose to around 600 per 100,000. So the increase in patents per capita over the last century has increased the pool of applicants for those patents, which has increased the number of patents in existence. So although we can’t tell how high the number of patents are currently, we can tell from the previous trend that those patents will be harder to use if a patent holder can have them. That will tend to make those patents less valuable to potential patent applicants. As a result, I would say that, despite patents now being relatively safe, that we should be most worried about the number of patents per capita.
So, is there a way to stop companies from patenting stuff they don’t own? This is a tricky question because patent trolls are often very clever, and they don’t seem to mind if we make it impossible for those with patents to patent other things that may affect them. But, I think, it