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08.20.14

On BlackBerry and Other Patent Trolls

Posted in Patents at 12:14 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Blackberry

Summary: A roundup regarding patent trolls, starting with the bigger and latest joiner, BlackBerry’s new patents apparatus

The other day we wrote about BlackBerry, which had become — at least in part — a patent troll. The media does not use the “T” word (troll), just as it never uses the other “T” word (terror) when it comes to state terrorism. It’s all about scale and it’s about who controls the media. As one more article puts it:

BlackBerry has created a new business unit to house its most promising assets – cryptographic applications, its QNX embedded software, patent portfolio and Project Ion platform.

The third one is the trolling component and it shows that one need not be a ‘classic’ troll to become a pain in the bum. BlackBerry shows that large companies too can go out of control with patents, especially when they are losing. Microsoft has already done this with Nokia, which fed patent trolls such as MOSAID at Microsoft’s request. Microsoft also collected other patents from defunct companies (Nortel, Novell, etc.) for the purpose of attacking FOSS. Remember this whenever one tries to shift patent debates only to small (‘classic’) trolls. The biggest trolls (like Microsoft) are by far the biggest problem and one way to circumvent their abuses is to tackle the patents themselves, or the patent system (many patents in one fell swoop).

Here in the press is MPHJ Holding again. It is one of the more notorious patent trolls these days and here again is a reminder of its actions, courtesy of TechDirt:

Vermont’s Case Against Notorious Scanner Patent Troll Moves Forward

Last year, there were a few stories concerning a really despicable (more than usual) patent troll called MPHJ Holdings. Joe Mullin, over at Ars Technica, had dug deep into the details, finding a bunch of shell companies all sending demand letters to various small companies demanding around $1,000 per employee for using a network-connected scanner that includes a “scan to email” feature (i.e., pretty much any scanner on the market today). There were all sorts of sketchy things about MPHJ, and it was pretty clear that it and all its shell companies were effectively shaking down small businesses. It was so egregious that Vermont’s Attorney General sued the company, claiming that it was engaged in “unfair and deceptive acts” with its threat letters.

Another notorious patent troll reportedly shakes down another victim. “A few weeks ago,” writes TechDirt, “we noted that Personal Audio, the patent troll that ridiculously pretended to own a patent on “podcasting” had put out a press release saying that it had tried to settle with Adam Carolla, the podcasting giant that the Personal Audio had sued a while ago. But Carolla had refused to settle. If you haven’t been following the case, Personal Audio claims that patent 8,112,504 covers podcasting and went after a few of the “big names” with lawsuits, while sending demand/threat letters to many others. Carolla fought back hard, getting a bunch of other top podcasters to speak up as well, and point people to a crowdfunding campaign for a podcasting legal defense fund.”

The bottom line is, there are large companies that are conducting business just like patent trolls and we must recognise this if we are ever to recognise the true nature of the patent problem. Sadly, the corporate press prefers to only focus and demonise the ‘classic’ trolls, not the corporations that fund the press to call the same practices “cross-licensing”, “patent agreement” or some other euphemisms when large entities are involved.

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