Trolls on the loose

by Judy Booth Thursday, July 11, 2013 11:10 PM

A Guest Opinion By Judy Booth
La Conner Weekly News, July 11, 2013

What do patent hoarders, Obama, Tethys and the Skagit River have in common?

Patent hoarders troll universities and research centers around the world looking for patents to buy. Then they look for products using that technology and demand a licensing fee or threaten court action.

They set up “shell” companies who take innovators to court, hiding the name of the parent company.  Inventors, scientists and universities can face years of litigation, thereby draining our economy and crushing creativity.  Most just give up and pay out of court.

They “don’t actually produce anything themselves,” but work “to essentially leverage and hijack somebody else’s idea and see if they can extort some money out of them,” President Obama said.

Once a patent troller has acquired a patent, they look for innovators who are developing the same or similar idea and demand a licensing fee or threaten to take them to court.  With pockets deep enough to hold up a would-be inventor for years, settlements are usually made out of court. The shell company sometimes sues as many as a hundred different innovators over the same idea.

The fact that a patent troller can hold a piece of paper, instead of developing that idea is what is so galling.  They are not interested in making products or developing ideas, but in buying and selling paper for their own profit and suing other companies over supposed patent infringement.   Like a troll hiding under a bridge, they pop up unexpectedly and make unreasonable demands, laughing all the way to bank with no concern for innovation or the economy.

Possibly the largest patent troller in the world is Intellectual Ventures of Bellevue, with upwards of 58,000 patents and over 1,200 shell companies world-wide, according to the
Stanford Technology Law Review.

Considering CEO Nathan Myhrvold of Intellectual Ventures gave $50,000 to Obama’s inauguration dinner, it should be interesting to see how he counsels the President on legislation of patent trolls aimed at transparency.

So if you have an idea on how to improve the Internet, back up files, store information or come up with a better idea on how to automate bottling plants, be careful, trolls are on the loose.

Intellectual Venture’s Vice President is
Steve Winter.  He is also the CEO of Tethys who has a saleable piece of paper with the City of Anacortes to build one of the largest beverage bottling plants in the U.S. on Reservation Road and Highway 20.

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