Die, Patent Trolls! DIE!

At last, we find a judge who truly understands how patents are supposed to work:

A federal judge denied on Friday a request from a small Virginia company to stop the online auction powerhouse eBay from using its “Buy It Now” feature, which allows shoppers to purchase items at a fixed price. …

… In his ruling, Judge Friedman said the company was not irreparably harmed because it continued to make money from its patents, either by licensing them outright or by threatening litigation against those it believed infringed upon them.

“MercExchange has utilized its patents as a sword to extract money rather than as a shield to protect its right to exclude or its market share, reputation, good will, or name recognition, as MercExchange appears to possess none of these,” he wrote. – [New York Times]

This article is the most acceptable example of the correct disposition of a patent dispute. Particularly impressive is that the judge in this case appears to understand what is actually going on, and rules in a fair manner to all concerned.

Now if you didn’t pick up on my feeling about patents in general from the title of this blog, Let me spell it out. I think the whole patent system stinks. I know the issues aren’t easy to solve, but it seems like here in America, patents are less about protection and more about patent litigation as a career for fun and profit. Very irritating.

At least I now know there is at least one judge who isn’t a mindless patent zombie…

Judge Permits eBay’s ‘Buy It Now’ Feature – [New York Times]


4 Responses to “Die, Patent Trolls! DIE!”

  1. 1 danny1944
    August 5, 2007 at 5:33 pm

    Hmmm, what is a TROLL?

    What would you call African-Americans who worked in southern fields in the nineteen century?

    And what would you call a long hair bearded person pushing a pushcart on Orchard Street, New York at the turn of the century?

    Maybe you should do some research. See how many small entity patents have been filed at the USPTO since the turn of the century.

    What percentage of patent holders made money on their inventions?

    How much was paid by them in fees, which Congress then turned over to other agencies, instead of re-investing in the patent system, by, for example, hiring more new examiners.

    The case that you cite is exactly why we have a judicial system. Hopefully, judges or juries following the law will come down with good decisions.

    Perhaps we should also change our criminal justice system; because of a few high profile cases like O.J. Simpson and Seymour Durst, let’s take away the presumption of innocence and now assume that defendants are guily until proved innocent.

  2. August 6, 2007 at 12:44 am


    The term “Patent Troll” is defined here. I am using it here to refer to companies or individuals that file mass patents and sit on them, then throw out a net every once in a while to see who has infringed.

    Incidentally it is the first time I’ve seeing the word “Troll” used in reference to nineteenth century African Americans or bearded pushcart folk on Orchard St., so if you could elaborate on those uses I would greatly appreciate it 🙂 .

    Now you have some good points about whether or not patent holders actually made money or not off their patents, and you have an excellent point about congress not investing sufficient funds into the patent process.

    On those points I agree with you 100%. But for me, the issue is not whether or not they made money off the patents they held, but rather, whether they prevented someone else from making money, and more importantly, developing a new, useful maybe even better product because they couldn’t.

    And don’t get me wrong. I am not faulting the judicial system at all. The problem lies entirely in the the way the patent system has been set up. Unfortunately, I believe that many judges, and majority of the population, are in fact not technically savvy enough to realize the long-term implications of some of the legal decisions that get made in regards to technological patents.

    The legal system generally tries to do what is right. However it is based primarily on laws, and the interpretation thereof. Unfortunately this also means that if the laws are flawed and the systems understanding of the subject matter is inadequate, the interpretation of those laws will also be flawed.

    Ultimately, where the laws are flawed, the legal system can do no better. I think the patent system needs to undergo some serious change.

    my $0.04… Inflation… You know…

  3. 3 danny1944
    August 6, 2007 at 6:08 am

    So let’s get back to “trolls”. My point is that someone created this degratory word which then gets used to paint a demeaning picture of a class of independent inventors. So now for lawyers defending infingers, they can call all of them trolls.

    So let’s say it is a kind of intellectual racism, not really different in methodology than standard racism. Demean a class of people, make it part of the language, and pay them less, if at all.

    So let’s get back to your definition of companies and individuals who file mass patents. I’ve never read of individuals currently doing that. It’s a bit expensive, but maybe, your correct and there are some.

    And for companies there are certainly a few. Intellectual Ventures for example which has major investors, mainly the same companies which support patent reform. So what’s with that. Maybe you could shed light on that.

    In any event, my mindset is that if I do another patent, I will file in the European Union, which runs their operation on time, is known for the quality of their prior art searches, where litigation costs are more reasonable. Given the provisions of the Patent Reform Act of 2007, I don’t believe the United States will be a friendly place to get a fair shake on a patent application.

    Ten years from now, Congress will pass Patent Reform to correct the mistakes of this Congress. And should we be surpised if some of the sponsors of the current Act then sit on the Board of Directors of the Software Consortium.

    Follow the money!

  4. August 6, 2007 at 12:34 pm

    Hey Danny,

    Thanks for clarification of the the whole “troll” business. It doesn’t seem like a derogatory term to me simply because (at least in my case) it was being used to describe the conscious decision of a lawyer or a business to partake in opportunistic or predatory patent actions.

    They have the option not to do so if they wish, but they want to make money any way they can, so they take advantage of the system in place. This article describes a typical example of what I am talking about, using the company you mentioned as an example.

    On the other hand, prejudice, like racism, for instance, makes unfounded assumptions about the target of the racism, or denigrates purely on the basis of an arbitrary quality that the target of that prejudice may have no control over. Or qualities that they may have control over, but do not have the intrinsic assumed negative qualities that are being attributed to them. I don’t think the two are the same at all.

    If it offends you, I won’t use it again. However it doesn’t change my opinion about the problems with the patent process and the folks that abuse it’s flaws.

    Regarding big patent companies like Intellectual Ventures, yes they want patent reform, but for (IMHO) the wrong reasons. They want reform that will make it harder for other people to be roadblocks to their continued amassment of patents.

    These companies are acting purely in their own self interest. They want to have patent laws that will make it easy for them to pass patents on a whim, and difficult for others to file suits against them.

    They are a typical example of the kind of company I am talking about that is abusing the patent system. Anyone can sit down and brainstorm and come up with new and innovative theoretical solutions to modern problems.

    But the hard part is getting from idea to production. The ones who put their time energy and cash into working out the kinks and producing a practical product should not be penalized for not being the first into the patent office.

    But as it stands now, that is the way it is, and I think it is a very, very, poor system. And I agree, the EU has a much better handle on the patent process than we do right now, it might be wise to seek a patent there, but it would be unlikely to protect you if you decide to sell your product here in the U.S.

    But I think if there is enough education about the issue, and how technology and innovation work in general, things can change.

    Patent reform or else – [CNet News]

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