What Is a Patent Troll?

I am now going to speak generally.

I am not attempting to allude to any specific party, but simply educating you about the concept of “patent trolls.”

First, check out this TED Talk:

Saw it?

OK. There are a few things I find incredibly disturbing about this talk (though gawd, I sure do like Drew Curtiss. There are too few like him).

  1. While the most horrific attacks that I can imagine cost the United State $123 billion, the cost to defendants of these types of frivolous lawsuits is $500 billion per year. The broken patent system in this country costs us as much as a September 11 every three months. (NOTE: OTHER SOURCES SAY PATENT TROLLING COSTS 29 BILLION PER YEAR. Estimates vary wildly because when people settle with the trolls, they sign statements promising to never divulge what happened to them as a condition of making the lawsuit stop).
  2. The lawyers that file the suits are often paid a percentage of what they take, so the company issuing the lawsuit pays nothing. The law firm that presses the suit files only paperwork. They neither pay money nor invent new ideas.
  3. The loss in productivity of the people being sued is surely unknown.
  4. The cost in stress and anxiety on the people being sued cannot be measured or shown with a dollar value.
  5. Because many settlement agreements specify that the defendant not be allowed to discuss the terms of the settlement, people are not allowed to talk about many of the specifics of what happened to them.

We actually have the financial equivalent of September 11 every three months, an impact on peoples’ lives that cannot even be measured, and people are not allowed to talk about it.

Can you believe that?

Here is a more detailed look at patent-trolls.

And another nice description.

Here are a few cases that have happened recently… you can Google countless more yourself.

Some guy uses a scanner in his business.

Some guy does a podcast.

Here, someone is sued for not selling his company, under guise of patent infringement.

A company is sued, the lawyers advise it to settle, so the troll quickly files more lawsuits!

A company sets up a sham website and claims to own e-shopping... the jury agrees and is not allowed to consider that the patent may be invalid.

I have heard it said that companies should “do their homework” before releasing a product, to be sure that it does not infringe on any patents.

Did you know that there are about two point one million patents currently in force? (Link)

If someone starting a small business were to pay a lawyer, say, $1,000 to check each one to be sure a new product does not infringe, and the lawyer takes an hour to do each check, that check would cost two point one billion dollars, and take 239 years.

Many of the patents found would be based on ideas that were in place long, long, long before the patent was filed, meaning that the patent is invalid.

So why does the patent office allow so many patents to be filed, when so many of them are clearly pre-dated by prior art, and therefore obvious duplicates? That, I cannot say, but here is an email I got from an X-Plane customer that certainly puts it quite vividly:

I’m sorry I can’t afford more right now, but as an owner of X-Plane 9, and your Android app, I hugely appreciate your work, and I hope you sock it to these patent trolling scumbags.  The USPTO are **** who don’t ever appear to have heard of the concept of prior art.  I’m not a US citizen, but the idiocy of the USPTO affects innovation the entire world over.  I hope that you get a jury who have at least half a brain between them, which would surely mean that you will win, and if you have any energy left at the end, lobby your representative and senator to actually do something about the USPTO.  Patents shouldn’t be granted without proper due-diligence on behalf of the patent examiners, yet the US system seems to be “what the hell, grant them, and let them slug it out in court” – which means that it’s not the innovators that win, it’s the corporation with the deepest pockets and smartest lawyers, which sucks beyond belief, and completely undermines the whole purpose of the patent system.

This short paragraph really boils down an interesting point: The patent system is not encouraging innovation at all! In fact it is destroying it… and providing the rewards to the lawyers and those who have the most money to feed them, or most commonly file the most frivolous lawsuits.

Here is an article on Patent Trolling  published by people that think like me: That people should manage their own destinies, free from excessive government and legal micro-managing.

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