As I was writing this comment (below) to the “New patent aggregator RPX may have an Oedipal complex” article by Matt Asay, I got chills down my back. You know I’m all for business and profits, but I am also for innovation and the furtherance of technology. If for no other reason, I got into patent law to help be a part of the future, as I believe that technology can solve the world’s problems… it can also cause and aggravate them. When you have patent holding companies that are so big and who wield so much POWER and CONTROL over those who have patents in subject matters which fall within their line-of-sight, it stuns me how quickly these conglomerates could kill businesses by “patenting past” their technologies.
Okay, first of all, very cute analogy to Oedipus. You even got a chuckle out of me. Secondly, a business model such as theirs IS something to be feared, but ALSO in an awe-stricken kind of way. Companies who cheated inventors out of licenses that rightfully should have gone to the inventors have created trolls and troll conglomerates. Obviously patent reform will somehow address this issue because corporations are shaking in their pants when a conglomerate such as this one or its family knocks on the door. Perhaps they’ll eventually have to hang on to the same patent law they threw under the bus when they decided to infringe in the first place. I equate a conglomerate to the Angel of Death (AoD). If one is virtuous (e.g. if a company stays within their protected rights covered by their patents and rightfully takes licenses to those inventors whose patents they are practicing), then that company will get a pass and they won’t have to submit to the will of the AoD.
What scares me is not the acquisition of patent rights from inventors who have been cheated out of licenses that rightfully belong to them, but think tanks of scientists who patent “just to stay ahead of technology.” Now that is freightening, because a company with enough resources can rule the world if they speculate and patent each and every speculation. This appears to be exactly what is happening, and from a corporate perspective, it is HIGHLY profitable.
That being said, I am sure that once patent conglomerates begin to stifle business’ ability to grow because they have to pay the keeper to cross the bridge — the true meaning of a troll — then at that point if not before, government will have to step in to preserve the patent system and restore it so that patents are returned to being used to further innovation rather than to stifle productivity.
Another article appeared discussing patent trolls. The article is called, “Looking to fend off patent trolls, IBM, Cisco support startup RPX” by John Cook. It appears I have a crusade here to properly define the issue of patent trolls for the patent community. My comment is below.
“Look, you are throwing around the term “patent troll” too loosely. A patent troll is one who acquires a patent for the sole purpose of enforcing it against someone else in litigation.
Everybody admits that the issues are 1) frivolous patents are awarded which duplicate subject matter in the prior art, 2) corporations infringe patents and bully inventors who deserve to be compensated for their innovations, 3) big patent-holding conglomerates are SCARY because they hold too much political and commercial power (according to some).
While the concept of a troll, e.g. company who buys patents to enforce them, seems to make them appear to be evil, remember that there would be no trolls if corporations were fair in their licensing practice and if they took licenses where licenses were appropriate. Instead, they play games and initiate stalling tactics to force the inventor into bankruptcy or to scare them into not pursuing them due to lack of funds. THIS is the problem. Get rid of this problem, and these helpless inventors will not sell their patents for pennies on the dollar.”
I was just reading the “Secretive IP Holder Funds Tech Acquisition” article where it mentions that Intellectual Ventures (IV) had a stake in the recent purchase of the Transmeta assets. My opinion about their interest is below.
First of all, and this is off the top of my head, there are those who claimed that Transmeta Corp. was a troll in that their goal was to patent around Intel’s patents. Obviously I have no backup for this other than word of mouth. However, when Transmets did sue Intel, Intel settled because the Transmeta claims did read on products Intel created and was in the process of creating.
Thus, IV purchasing Transmeta’s many patent assets would be nothing more than one IP holding company purchasing the assets of an IP holding company. I suppose it all relates to intent. So far, their intent appears to be to acquire assets and assert them against companies who are infringing their patents to force them to take a license on those patents. I don’t have anything wrong with this because IV rightfully purchased those assets, and as patents currently stand, they are PROPERTY which is transferrable. (Whether I believe the right to assert should belong to big companies or to the inventor is a different topic.)
But in sum, Intellectual Ventures is doing nothing wrong by purchasing Transmeta’s assets. All you can hope for is that IV will use them in a more productive and “friendlier” way than Transmeta has.
Remember, the goal in patent law should always be “to promote innovation” rather than to promote corporate profits.
Another paste of a comment from the TechDirt article on “New Patent Buying Firm Swears It’ll Never Litigate Over Its Patents”
Re: Mafia – Nov 25th, 2008 @ 1:29pm
There is no reason that those looking for patent protection have to pay the equivalent of a mafia in order to have protection from would-be infringers. The laws themselves should provide enough patent protection to the inventors, but they don’t in their current form.
Being proactive regarding patent reform, on the issue of trolls and non-practicing entities (NPEs).
I thought the conversation in the comments section of the Techdirt article about Bill Gates working with Nathan Myhrvold was a good one. I wanted to paste a copy here.
I agree that forums such as these are good for voicing concerns about those who are benefiting from the patent law system in its present form. However, it does nobody any good until someone on the federal level *who has legislative power* gets interested in the subject matter and takes action on it. My experience is that this almost never happens until people like YOU, ME, and OTHERS start writing letters, sending e-mails, and making phone calls.
Those in power need to be EDUCATED on the issues we are discussing on this mini-forum, but they will likely not come to you or read this article and its many comments. HENCE, WE NEED TO BE PROACTIVE AND DO SOMETHING about issues we see that affect the integrity of our patent system.
Someone below referred to me as a “self-labeled troll.” I find that comment to be slightly ignorant. Rather, I’m an activist and I prefer to fix the problems at its source rather than fighting those who have figured out a way to benefit from the system as it is. While I am very against those who abuse the system with frivolous law suits, patent assertions, and litigation tactics, ESPECIALLY from NPEs (non-practicing entities), ***always remember that there would be no such thing as a patent troll if companies would be fair about taking licenses from little guys (individual inventors and/or small companies who cannot afford the patent enforcement process.)***
My opinion is that there should be stronger patent protection for inventors so that there would be no incentive to sell to a troll for pennies on the dollar.
As for the topic of NPEs, I don’t quite have a solution, nor do I know what to do about them, but I do see it as being an issue.
…Companies Band Together as the Allied Security Trust to Buy IP Before Any Trolls Can Take Them To Court
By: Maureen O’Gara
Jul. 9, 2008 02:45 AM
“Verizon, Google, Cisco, HP, Motorola, Sun, Telefon AB and Ericsson have banded together as the Allied Security Trust to buy IP before any trolls can take them to court.
They’ve paid $250k to join and are each kicking it about $5 million in funding. They will then get non-exclusive licenses to the acquired technology and afterwards sell it on. The non-profit calls the concept “catch and release.” It currently has 11 members and is expecting 30-40.
It swears it won’t assert any of the acquired patents.
According to the new non-profit, It costs operating companies an average of $3.2 million through the end of discovery and $5.2 million through trial to defend infringement cases when there is more than $25 million at stake. It says “even a small claim is highly disruptive and requires significant time and legal costs to defend.”
It says companies often settle for a smaller amount than whatever is sought, even when the company knows that it would eventually win. “These lawsuits are not only a huge distraction for management, but they also draw R&D and other resources away from other projects.”
The place is being run by former IBM VP of IP and licensing Brian Hinman.”