Yet subsequent research done by the non-partisan Governmental Accounting Office put that number at one-fifth, and other data showed that the number of patent defendants had been roughly flat before and after the AIA. (Ms Lee, who resigned from the patent office in June, could not be reached for comment.)
"The historical trend in litigation rates relative to patents granted clearly does not support claims that litigation in the past decades has 'exploded' above the long-term norm," wrote Bowdoin College professor Zorina Khan, in a 2013 paper "Trolls and Other Patent Inventions".
What's more, she argued, a number of legislative changes seemed to address "the ephemeral demands of the most strident interest groups at a single point in time" and are "inconsistent with the fundamentals of the US intellectual property system".
Indeed, some would argue that the system of adjudication for patents introduced under the Obama administration has become a "powerful shield" for those accused of patent infringement. Most of the verdicts go against the patent holder, leading former chief judge Randall Rader, who led the court in charge of patent appeals, to label it the "death squad" for IP.
Another retired federal district court judge, Paul Michel, has become a vocal opponent of the system, arguing that excessive invalidations and the way in which the adjudication board has pre-empted court rulings are sapping both the strength of the patent system, and American innovation itself."
The cumulative [anti-patent] effect of the Supreme Court rulings and the AIA was, together, stronger than it should have been," he says, in part because of what he and others say was lobbying on the part of large tech firms. "Patent values are plummeting, and licensing and capital investments in many technologies are sinking. The AIA has done more harm than good."
There are those who say there's not much to fix in the system. Mark Chandler, the general counsel of Cisco, recently had two patents overturned in the PTAB system, but still believes it is the best way to determine patent worthiness.
"The patent right is designed to promote progress through the reward of a legal monopoly. The system is effective as long as patents represent a true, implementable technology, and patents which never should have been granted can be efficiently eliminated from the system. If the system cannot achieve this, it puts a deadweight burden on the economy by blocking innovation by others and unnecessarily driving up prices to consumers." Companies such as Intel would say much the same thing.
The key is deciding which patents should be granted — and opinions between Big Tech and many other innovators differ wildly.
"You need a patent system that induces the right behaviour, which means one in which incumbents have to pay for innovations, not copy or steal them," says venture capitalist Gary Lauder, a Silicon Valley-based investor who has poured more than half a billion dollars in funding into nearly 100 companies and 60 venture capital funds in the past 28 years, and has become an advocate for a stronger patent system.
"We need to protect the larger start-up ecosystem, which is where the majority of jobs are created," he says. "It's an issue that's really crucial for our economy. Today the incumbents are copying the innovators. Next both will be copied and displaced by cheap foreign knock-offs."
There is little doubt that strong IP protection is linked to stronger economic growth. A recent paper from the National Bureau of Economic Research found that holding a patent (and being able to defend it) increases the probability of securing venture capital funding by 53 per cent, start-up job growth by 36 per cent and start-up sales by 51 per cent. Another paper, "Patents and the Wealth of Nations" by Stanford academic Stephen Haber, found that countries that protect patents enjoy stronger economic growth. His research also shows that the patent troll narrative, and the idea that litigious patent holders can "hold up" innovation for bigger groups, is inconsistent with the data.
As both sides debate the data, the next battle in the patent wars is getting under way. Lawmakers like Democratic Senator Chris Coons are now pushing for new rules that would strengthen patent laws, amid worries that the US is beginning to lose important innovations to Europe and China, which despite its own reputation for theft of foreign IP has been strengthening patent protection.
There are separate debates over whether software and biotech's different business models might require two patent systems. Next year, the Supreme Court may hear a case, Oil States vs Greene's Energy, that will challenge the entire constitutionality of the current patent system. Either way, innovators and investors will go where they can for the best IP protection. The patent wars will play a large role in what part of the world that will be — and where the next life-saving drug will be developed.