The number of patent litigation cases filed in U.S. courts dropped in 2014, the first decrease in five years. That's according to a new report from PricewaterhouseCoopers.
"It's a sea change from the past, especially the last four years," said Chris Barry, a partner with PwC's forensic services practice and the lead author of the report. After patent lawsuits doubled since 2009 to more than 6,000, they dropped by 12 percent in 2014.
The report, which CNBC got an early look at, comes out Wednesday. It credits the Supreme Court's decision in Alice Corp. v. CLS Bank for much of the drop in patent litigation. The case, which was decided in June 2014, raised the bar for software patents, the sort that many nonpracticing entities (aka NPEs, or patent trolls) prey upon.
"We'll probably see this trend continue, and more dramatically," Barry said. That's because the case was concluded halfway through 2014, meaning a full year's worth of effects in 2015 should really show a big decline.
The increase in litigation action coincided with—though outpaced—a dramatic rise in the number of patents granted by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. Critics contend that regulators have become lax, approving too many patents with questionable specs.