Tech, telecom join up to beat back trolls

Tech, telecom join up to beat back trolls

Summary: Seeing as how patent reform has died on the vine, several tech and telecom companies are taking matters into their own hands, the Wall Street Journal reports.

TOPICS: Networking, Legal, Telcos

Seeing as how patent reform has died on the vine, several tech and telecom companies are taking matters into their own hands, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Scared by the NTP v Research in Motion case, in which the BlackBerry maker came perilously close to folding under the burden of patent prosecution by the troll NTP, Google, HP, Verizon, Ericsson and Cisco have banded together as the Allied Security Trust in order to engage in what you could call defensive trolling – buying up IP before it can be used against them.

In 1990, there were 921 patent prosecutions in the U.S. Last year, through October, there were 2,500. The Allied Security Trust members will pay $250K to join and pony up $5 million to go to patent purchases. But they won't use the patents as an enforcement vehicle. They will sell the patents after granting themselves a nonexclusive license to the underlying technology, according the group's CEO, Brian Hinman, formerly IP boss at IBM.

As for the trolls, they say they provide a valuable service to inventors. Any company should be able to enforce patent rights, regardless of what it produces, if anything, says Rob Epstein, CEO of IPotential, who says companies like his provide revenue to inventors.

Topics: Networking, Legal, Telcos

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  • a larger problem

    The laws concerning patents, copyrights, and trademarks have spiralled out of control. What was once protection for a short period of time for something truly inventive has become indefinite protection for any casually obvious concept.

    The "intellectual property" experiment has failed. We need to go back to protecting ownership physical objects, and allow ideas and other intangibles to be what they are: beyond the control of human beings.

    You can't use the law to protect an idea any more than you can un-ring a bell, and trying to do so just distorts our legal system, makes a mockery of our courts, and stifles genuine innovation and creativity.
    • It keep the lawyers off the streets

      so at least they're not selling drugs to our kids.
      • What do you . . .

        call 10,000 lawyers at the bottom of the ocean?

        . . . A good start. :)
        • RE: What do you. . .

          Quote: [i]What do you. . .

          call 10,000 lawyers at the bottom of the ocean?[/i]

  • Sounds like there could be some antitrust problems

    Gee ... a consortium of industry super heavyweights decides to buy up property, keep the right to use it, and then sell it to someone else, who will never REALLY fully own the property because of the non-exclusive license.

    Sounds like a great class-action conspiracy and anti-trust lawsuit to me. Better hope Obama doesn't win.

    And why are these people "trolls"? They are buying and selling PROPERTY. Nothing less, nothing more. No one says that if you buy a car, real estate, art, jewelry, copyrights, etc., you MUST make improvements and unless you PRODUCE art, jewelry, etc., you are a "troll". They are simply investors buying something that they believe has value. Obviously, if it did not have value no one would be complaining. The entire capitalistic Western economic system is based on ownership of property and the right to buy and sell property, regardless of whether it is physical property like real estate, intangible property like accounts receivable, or intellectual property such as patent rights, copyrights and trademarks.

    Regarding the argument that the "trolls" are hindering progress, that is a fantasy--if patent rights could not be bought and sold like other types of property many small companies would never get into development because unless they developed the next killer app they could not penetrate a market already dominated by other companies. (What is OpenOffice's market share?) And end-users would suffer because instead of companies being able to cross-license technologies so that the end result is similar products from several vendors (all cars have 4 tires, a steering wheel, foot-controlled brakes, etc.) users would have to decide "Okay, do I get Product A, which includes email AND presentation software but no wordprocessor, or do I get Product B which has email and a spreadsheet but no wordprocessor or Product C which has presentation graphics and a wordprocessor but no email?"
    • A patent is a franchise

      It's no more property than an employment contract or a cable TV franchise. It's called "property" for rhetorical purposes, but property doesn't normally expire and isn't typically granted by a government agency, except in the case of land, which I suspect doesn't really qualify as property either in the strict sense of the word. At least land grants aren't called property unless they're made in perpetuity.

      Now what would be productive would be a consortium dedicated to invaliding questionable patents (seems to be lots of them). Might even shame the USPTO into doing their job better.
      John L. Ries
      • sounds a little dangerous

        If such a consortium was formed how long would it exist before it became a way for more powerful companies to take preditory action against smaller cokmpanies and sieze desired patents?
        • If the patents are valid...

          ...then I don't see a problem. Last I heard, once a patent is granted, its validity is assumed by the courts unless proven otherwise. Besides, this strikes me as a poor strategy for "seizing desired patents". If you have strong evidence a patent is invalid, then why would you want it for yourself?
          John L. Ries
  • Dumb it down a little Richard...

    Im interested but ignorant. What was the thrush of patent reform? How about a refresher on the NTP v Research in Motion case? Can you give some background to the troll term and a more specific examle or two?