Not always so clear when a patent acquisition company has gone troll.

Recently when I’ve searched for “Intellectual Ventures” on the Twitter web site, all I’ve been seeing are comments about how they hit up a big company for a large sum of money over a license based on a number of patents they owned (a.k.a. purchased). The opinion, as described in the “Microsoft Wants to ‘Save’ the World, Using Restrictive Monopolies” article suggests that IV has gone bad.

It’s both surprising and not surprising to me that IV is said to have gone offensive, especially with the recent Intuit license that has everyone in a frenzy.

I thought the whole purpose of IV/RPX was to form a patent protection conglomerate to protect against frivolous lawsuits claiming patent infringement when there was none. The purchase of all those patents as far as I understood was for the use of member companies (those who paid to join in) to defeat those claims that ordinarily would cost companies millions.

I’m not so quick to start calling Intellectual Ventures a super-troll. There is probably a lot going on there behind closed doors. Some good may come of it.

On the point of the article regarding Microsoft giving open source programmers a difficult time because of their patents, that somewhat hits a nerve between the programmer in me who believes in open source and the attorney in me who believes in copyrights, patents, and protection of intellectual property. On the one hand, I suggest that Microsoft leave the open source community alone as there are bigger fish to fry, so to speak, as there are commercial applications infringing many of Microsoft’s longstanding patents. However, if their method of attack is to sue members of the open source community to go after lost profits based on what they claim they would have made had they sold the same program for which they own the patent, I understand that their damages would be greater, however their ability to collect would be nominal.

Maybe it’s more about acquiring a meaningful judgment to bolster the strength of their patents and in patents in general rather than a small-to-moderate judgment that will make their shareholders a few dollars (more likely a few pennies on their stock, if even that), as I’m sure they don’t need the latter or the aggravation of collecting a judgment against a small fish.

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