Friday, March 15, 2013

Key concept: Trolling

Copyright © Françoise Herrmann
The term Troll (in reference to patents) was coined by an Intel VP who was sued for libel when he used the term “patent extortionists”. Thus, the term originates in the computer electronics world, even if conceivably it could apply to other patenting domains.
Definition of trolling per Stephen Levy in Wired Magazine (Dec. 2012):
“Though trolling may be frowned upon, it can present an irresistible business model. It costs a few thousand dollars to secure a patent, which can easily bring millions through litigation. That helps explain why trolling exploded since the turn of the century. In 2011 NPE (Non Practicing Entities) brought 5842 suits with a direct cost of 29 billion in legal and settlement fees – more than 4 times the haul in 2005”.(p. 227)
So what’s patent trolling? This is a patent “watch” and patent “enforcement” activity where an NPE, a law firm and/or a VC (venture capital) firm, buys patents (becomes assignee), and once owner of the patents, seeks to enforce the patents through lawsuits or litigated licenses. This activity is much criticized as it is perceived as “leeching”onto the patenting system. That is, instead of using the patents just acquired to create new products, the NPE players are using their purchased patents to file infringement lawsuits and/or to intimidate companies into licensing the use of a patented technology.
Then, there's also this sweety pie! :-)

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