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06.12.14

Patent Trolls Still Wrongly Portrayed as the Main Problem With the Patent System and Legislation Follows Suit

Posted in Law, Patents at 7:16 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Statue of wisdom

Summary: Efforts to improve the patent system focus not on the real issue/s with patents but instead on phantom issues that help protect the interests of large corporations

According to some new statistics, the sordid mess of patent lawsuits is getting more serious, still. “That’s not a surprise,” insists the article. “Statistics from Lex Machina show that 2013 set a new record for new patent lawsuits. All those legal threats are giving new urgency to the patent reform debate.”

As usual, the straw man which is “patent trolls” takes all the blame, even through some entities — including universities — are selling patents to trolls. Watch the boosters of software patents using the straw man (Boston University is not directly a troll for example, so we know that not trolls are the sole issue). Blaming “trolls” is still the large corporations’ approach for diverting all attention to small offenders, using them as scapegoats while large corporations misuse patents themselves. The issue is the offence itself, not the scale of the offender.

When patents are granted on computer programs and video games (which are abstract) it should be clear that patent scope is the main problem. When new programs are introduced by the USPTO to increase the number of patents it should be clear what the source of trouble really is. Patent lawyers take sides and encourage software patents because there is money to be made from it.

Some large companies act no different from so-called trolls and the use of the term “troll” just mostly refers to scale these days. Trend Micro acted like a troll some years ago and now it receives a taste of its own poison. Consider this new article that says a “Delaware federal judge on Tuesday refused a request by Symantec Corp. and Trend Micro Inc. to partially delay two trials over a nonpracticing entity’s claims they flouted four anti-virus software patents, saying the requests came too late since trial dates had already been set.” (source)

According to Red Hat’s staff, new legislation only tackles trolls. To quote: “Patent reform may have stalled this year at the federal level, but patent trolls may soon find their actions curtailed by a number of patent abuse litigation laws that have been passed or are pending in over twenty U.S. states.

“Last year, the state of Vermont passed a law aimed at preventing “bad faith assertions of patent infringement.” The law targets the practice of sending demand letters with very little, if any information regarding the patent supposedly infringed and would require the asserting entity to provide the patent number, name and address of the company alleging infringement, and other details regarding the nature of the complaint. It is a common tactic for patent trolls, sometimes called “patent assertion entities” or “non-practicing entities” to send letters with very vague information alleging patent infringement to other businesses, both large and small, in the hopes of extorting a settlement from them to avoid a nuisance lawsuit.”

Not only trolls are doing this. Much bigger entities are doing the same thing, so this strategy would not bear fruit. Here is an example of this strategy in action: “When Santa Barbara startup FindTheBest (FTB) was sued by a patent troll called Lumen View last year, it vowed to fight back rather than pay up the $50,000 licensing fee Lumen was asking for. Company CEO Kevin O’Connor made it personal, pledging $1 million of his own money to fight the legal battle.”

The entity might be forced to pay the legal fees, but it does not address the issue of litigation by non-trolls. Here is another example. The reason we stopped focusing on patent issues some months ago is that the press gave up focusing on the real issue, focusing instead on the whole “trolls” distraction. Even Red Hat has become part of this problem.

Everyone recognises that there is a problem with the patent system, but the only voice which counts (corporations) as far as corporate press goes steers everyone away from the real solution.

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