When a manufacturer or company invents and patents their product, brand, or idea, they usually expect that when the patent office grants them patent, they may begin working with their invention. However, something or someone may stand in their way, blocking the path to success. Patent trolls are entities (usually large companies) that claim an idea as their own, cry patent infringement, and then reap the benefits of lucrative lawsuits against the plaintiff and assets to invention rights. Oftentimes, these lawsuits are crippling for the businesses and individuals on the target end of the patent troll parasites.
Patent Trolls and the Internet
The term patent troll has been around for years, but has made a debut again in breaking news as recently as February, 2012. Michael Doyle, an innovative scientist, has caused a colossal stir with his claims to have invented the idea and preliminary technology behind interactive web during his research at the University of California. He has made headlines with this claim, as well as with his company Eolas’ lawsuit against the biggest players of the internet, claiming that they violated his patented ideas, companies including Yahoo, Google, and Youtube. Doyle’s threats have these large companies worried, and they have led to an outcry around the internet against Doyle the patent troll. Furthermore, as the lawsuits take shape, technology-based web companies are scrambling to get their rights in order and wondering how Doyle’s patent trolling will affect the future of e-commerce.
Until now, the internet was considered domain, the wild west of capital ventures. Now, anyone with an interactive website could be harmed by a patent that not many even knew about until recently. The problem with Doyle’s claim does not lie in the pattern of suing companies for patent infringement, but the extreme effects of the patent if Doyle wins the rights to technologies that are foundational for most websites. If Doyle did truly invent this idea, and companies like Google have been intentionally or unintentionally infringing on patents that were still being created and developed, then so were other, smaller web developers. In fact, any site, even a small website, could be open to lawsuit for patent infringement if Doyle wins his cases. The interactive web has become so intricate, that finding the culprits would prove an almost impossible task, but is currently considered a real possibility.
More Frivolous Claims and Their Effects on the Free Market
Despite the outcry in Doyle’s case, he may not even be the worst example of a patent troll, since he may have actually invented the technology in question. Often, businesses that participate in patent trolling get far less media attention, but enter the patent assets market just to crush their competition, when in fact they may not even be using the patent to manufacture or create anything after winning money from the defendant. The effects on the defendant are often so crippling that they are forced to file for bankruptcy.
Potential negative repercussions of the destruction of patent trolls can influence society on many different levels. For example, the aggressive and often time consuming law suits work against use valuable public and private resources in court. What sort of free market are these greedy companies creating? Law suits by patent trolls are damaging the ability for companies to express their ingenuity and for new ideas to flourish. These patent suits are used as an intimidation technique, stifling creativity and punishing innovators who could really make an impact in society and keeping the market stagnant.
The Government to the Rescue?
In fall 2011, American government made a step towards preventing patent lawsuit abuses. The bill HR 1249 was made law. Many believe that this new patent law could help protect inventors and investors against patent trolls. Although not comprehensive, the law does help defendants through managing terms of defendant rejoinders. This may help decrease the likelihood of success for patent trolls, as patent plaintiffs will now have to file against each defendant individually, which will be more expensive and time consuming.
Patent trolls can be true bullies, and a detriment to business. At their worst, trolls function with one primary drive- to stomp out and destroy every idea around them in order to gain recognition or money. The ironic part of strategies patent trolls employ to intimidate competition and control the market is that through participating in this type of mercenary trolling, companies end up reflecting poorly on their confidence and ability to be on the cutting edge of business innovation. If companies are strong within themselves and putting out unique products, there should be no need to suck the life of other, often much smaller companies.
This article was written by Jessica Stambaugh for Katz & Phillips, P.A. When Looking for an Orlando DUI Attorney be sure to contact the firm of Katz & Phillips, P.A. for a free case evaluation.