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Another reason the patent system is so difficult.

Last month, Google stepped up to defend Android coders against notorious patent troll Lodsys. Apple fought the company a few months earlier on behalf of iOS developers. Patent reform is a hot topic right now, especially after President Obama just signed legislation that means the U.S. is shifting to a “first to file” (over “first to invent”) system. This won’t help much with the patent troll situation, which Boston University researchers James Bessen and Mike Meurer say have cost publicly-traded defendants $500 billion since 1990…

Bessen and Meurer gained fame after writing Patent Failure, “an empirical study of the patent system that has been widely read and cited since its publication in 2008,” reports Ars Technica:

“Outside the chemical and pharmaceutical industries, the cost of patent litigation had already begun to exceed the rewards to inventors by the year 2000. Their new work suggests that the problem has gotten much, much worse since then.

… In the last four years, the costs have averaged $83 billion per year. The study says this is more than a quarter of U.S. industrial research and development spending during those years.”

While it’s difficult to measure the specific costs, Bessen and Meurer used a “stock market event” study (measuring a company’s value after a lawsuit is filed) to estimate the $500 billion figure. They looked at 1,630 patent troll lawsuits compiled by Patent Freedom.

Harvard Business Review describes the patent research by Bessen and Meurer as the most rigorous in the country.