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The cost of patent trolls PDF Print E-mail
Articles | Tech
Written by Morphus on Tuesday, 26 July 2011 11:34   

Big companies amass patent portfolios so that they can threaten to sue any company which sues them.

 

The end result is a highly dysfunctional situation where virtually any startup is at risk of being shut down by a patent suit; and where nameplate companies with no business and no revenues, like Oasis Research, are the perfect vehicles to launch patent suits, since they’re not susceptible to countersuits. Essentially, if you’re small, you have to hope to fly below the radar; if you’re big, you have to pay billions of dollars on patents you have no particular interest in. Here’s how TAL describes the $4.5 billion that Apple, Microsoft, Nokia and others paid for Nortel’s patent portfolio:

 

That’s $4.5 billion on patents that these companies almost certainly don’t want for their technical secrets. That $4.5 billion won’t build anything new, won’t bring new products to the shelves, won’t open up new factories that can hire people who need jobs. That’s $4.5 billion dollars that adds to the price of every product these companies sell you. That’s $4.5 billion dollars buying arms for an ongoing patent war.

 

The big companies — Google, Apple, Microsoft — will probably survive. The likely casualties are the companies out there now that no one’s ever heard of that could one day take their place.

 

The US is in desperate need of patent overhaul. We need to make it easier and quicker to get good patents, and much harder or impossible to get bad patents. We need to abolish the abomination that is the business-method patent entirely. And most crucially we need to allow defendants in patent suits to argue that the patent is invalid because it was awarded in error, with lots of prior art at the time the patent was awarded. Right now, patents can be appealed — but not in the court where they’re being enforced, with the result that trolls with invalid patents can still get paid out to the tune of billions of dollars.

 

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