|Never mind trolls, how about|
a patent trolley for Kats ...
Patently absurd: BBC radio 4. Still available on iPlayerYou can listen to "Patently Absurd" for the next few days via the BBC's iPlayer facility and enjoy it to your heart's content, says the IPKat [unless you are living somewhere in the world and/or are a business, in which case copyright law and sundry terms and conditions apply, adds Merpel ...]
This program was reported from Marshall, Texas, where a large number of patent infringement cases are currently being filed due to the speed at which they can proceed to trial. Known as the "rocket docket" apparently, it only takes 18-24 months as opposed to 3-5 years to proceed to trial in Marshall. This has been very lucrative for the town.
The term “patent troll” was construed as “someone who buys patents and then sues people” in this instance.
The view of the programme was that (bad) patent trolls in the US are out of control, and buying up vast swathes of patents simply to extract 'licence fees' from (good and innocent) businesses that actually make products. Most business pay up even if they're not infringing any patents, in order to avoid a costly lawsuit.
The reporter traveled to Marshall to try to speak to some "trolls" and their "victims". However, they found that many people could not speak to them due to NDAs signed on settlement.
The reporter tried to interview a company called Lodsys which had tried to assert a patent directed to a floating point decimal against companies using Linux open source software. Red Hat attacked the patent and won. The judge stated that the patent was "impeding the march of science". No-one at Lodsys would comment on the case.
The reporter was able to speak to the owner of IPNav, another NPE or "troll" as labelled in this programme. He stated that he considers his business to be valuable, ethical, legal and lucrative. He was once a CEO who was sued by a NPE. The business model attracted him.
This interview was followed by discussion with some academics and electronic industry groups relating to the opposite view. Patent troll expert Professor Robin Feldman of UC Hastings said that patent rights are not the same as other property rights. The US constitution says the purpose of patents is to promote the progress of the useful arts. Society has a right and an obligation to bring them back into line if they are not fit for purpose.
President Obama has now intervened, with 12 new rules to reduce the impact of NPEs. Little detail of the rules was given here.
The gist of the programme is that British companies will be targeted if they do business in the US, but not that this is a problem in the UK.
The programme ended with a comment from “ troll” IP NAV owner Eric Spangenberg, who said "we (in the US) are using the courts as a market place and that is something they are ill suited to do". Therefore he is broadly in favour of the President's reforms.
None of this is new to us in the IP world, but it is interesting to see how this is presented to the lay person by a public broadcasting organisation. The perception of the IP world appears to be largely negative in the public sphere, as something which protects big business and harms the little man. Perhaps the IP world needs better PR? Or fewer trolls.