Holy Trolly: The Bullies of the IP World

Photo courtesy of Bob MacNeil/extremetech.com
Photo courtesy of Bob MacNeil/extremetech.com
by: Will Manolis, Web Editor
We are not trolling merrily along. The fear today is not the troll under the bridge, nor the Internet trolls inciting ire and hatred on online forums. The most vile and abhorrent figure in today’s intellectual property (IP) community is the patent troll. What is a patent troll you ask?  Well, apart from being a litigious bully, it refers to a person or entity that enforces patents against others solely for opportunistic purposes, without any intent to actually utilize the patents upon which they claim are being infringed.
How do you become a patent troll?  Find a bankrupt giant or financially downtrodden startup, and acquire anything and everything in its intellectual portfolio. With step one complete, spend the rest of your time filing claims of patent infringement against applicants at the United States Patent and Trademark Office (PTO). And so, the legal circus begins. The cost for a plaintiff in a patent infringement suit is essentially limited to the cost of filing the complaint, as it is usually litigated on a contingency basis. Alternatively, the cost of defending a patent infringement suit is financially crippling (expect at least $1M at a major defense firm).
What would normally quell trollish posturing (read: offer a bigger goat, or tattle to the moderator) is ineffective against a patent troll. It is a monetary beast, of which will persist until someone ponies up the licensing cash. This practice stifles innovation, and tanks otherwise valid claims to patentability, because there is no business model that can incur exorbitant legal fees into perpetuity. Unfortunately, this will continue until legislative action thwarting the practice is passed. While forcing the losing party to foot the legal bill may help to forestall frivolous claims brought by non-practicing entities, there is no panacea to patent extortion. At any rate, beware the patent troll.

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