Summary: The story of a patent troll who helps show how bad the patent system has become
The site of Mike Masnick loves this story which it says helps illustrate how bad the patent system becomes. It says that “Medina cut out the guy who actually came up with the idea of scanning documents, and set himself up as a patent troll. He sued over 100 companies — and realized that as long as the “license” he asked for was cheaper than fighting him in court, everyone would pay up, and everyone did… except one company, Flagstar Bancorp. Levy goes through details of the seven years spent fighting the case, including two separate district court judges who absolutely slammed the lawsuit (one said the case had “indicia of extortion”) and told Medina he had to pay up for filing such a ridiculous lawsuit (in between all that, the appeals court, ridiculously, disagreed and sent it back). Eventually the appeals court agreed with the lower court, and the Supreme Court refused to hear the case, but it was a massive waste of time and energy. Amazingly, the guy who demanded payment from all those companies (and got it from most), for doing absolutely nothing to actually help with the development of e-commerce, claims he’s a “victim.””
The original provides some background:
The US patent system goes back to the nation’s founding; it is explicitly delineated in the Constitution, which, in the name of “the progress of science and the useful arts,” gives Congress the power to grant inventors “the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries” for a limited time—generally 20 years—during which period competitors are forbidden from selling similar products. Without those assurances, there would arguably be no incentive to innovate; why invest money and effort on a breakthrough that anyone could then take and sell? Patents created a business environment that led to such landmark technologies as the cotton gin, Morse code, the Yale lock, the Xerox machine, the laser, and the Hula Hoop.
But over the years patents became much more than just protection. They were also assets. Inventors who won patents were free to sell them on the open market, giving the buyer the right to their creations. In theory this was another boon for innovation; even if original patent holders couldn’t maximize the potential of their inventions, they could still turn a tidy profit by allowing someone else to build on their ideas. But in practice it meant that even people who never invented anything in their lives—a group of lawyers, for instance—could scoop up a bunch of patents and start suing other inventors for infringing on their intellectual property.
And this is what we have today. It is a broken system that almost everyone wants changed. █