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  • 1. TROLLS 2: THE ELECTRIC BOOGALOO ! ! ! Writer’s note: This is a story where you want to follow the embedded links, as it presents a whole picture of what antipatent trolling advocates are up against in the Senate… and some of the links will make you giggle. ! ! Image via Wikimedia Patent trolling is back in the news in 2014! (Like it ever left?) At the end of November 2013 we published our review of what was happening in the case of Everyone vs. Patent Trolls. A quick summary: The House of Representatives was considering legislation designed to stymie low-quality patent lawsuits. Tech giants Microsoft and IBM lobbied to have the bill gutted of the language which would actually protect companies from the litigious patent trolls, stating that “the provision would discourage innovation because companies won’t feel they can adequately protect the ideas and designs they invent.” The language was removed and the bill - made 99.9% ineffective because of the language removal - was passed in the House and bound to the Senate. Now, despite the fact that Congress is generally dysfunctional, and not prone to passing legislation that does anything substantive or helpful for the American people, they do seem to like protecting corporations from… well, everything. So you’d think that between the legislation having been gutted of all substance and the fact that the bill is -primarily- designed to (at least in theory) protect large corporations from frivolous lawsuits, this would be a slam dunk to make it through the Senate in record time… ! Not quite: In political moves that are quite inspiring, several Democratic senators have launched upon a campaign to strengthen the gutted Goodlatte bill by including measures that amend the Covered Business Method review program so that the USPTO can reject infringement claims that are deemed “low quality,” thusly protecting both large corporations and the smaller guys. (Basically, tech startups and software innovators.) Kudos to them, right? Let’s pass something that does something for someone for once. ! Hah! Not so quick there, friend… This is the SENATE we’re talking about. And, a bill of this sort would require… wait for it… here it comes… you’re gonna laugh so hard… ! Bipartisan support. ! Remember, Congressional Republicans are the geniuses who met on the night of the 2009 Presidential Inauguration and made a pact -- A FREAKIN’ PACT -- to willfully block any legislation that President Obama supported, regardless of its merits or value to their own
  • 2. constituents. ! And, boy have they ever. ! And, you know that President Obama has come out strongly in favor of legislation reform that will curtail patent trolling. ! So you do the math. ! This doesn’t even take into account that IBM and Microsoft and other big corporations will furiously tilt against any legislation that includes CBM expansion. Because it might *slightly* limit their ability to litigate against perceived trademark/patent infringements… Because, big tech giants like Microsoft, IBM, Apple, Google and the lot really need the wee bit of money they *might* lose out on (or as one colleague points out “the principle of being in the right”) by including language that protects their smaller techie brothers and sisters from the frivolous (and, often bankrupting) litigation of patent trolls… ! This is generally where Seth Myers and Amy Poehler would come on the television screen and do a segment of “Really?!?!? with Seth and Amy.” ! How rich is rich enough, already, tech giants? Can’t we afford to protect the little guys? You were once one of them, have you forgotten your startups in your garages? ! Anyhoozel, we rant and somewhat digress… At the same time as this legislation is slowly snaking through Congress, there are two other compelling stories about patent trolling to consider: ! He’s baaaacccckk: The guy for whom the phrase “patent troll” was created, Anthony Brown, is back working the gambit after eight years off the market. (He sold his original company in 2005 for $27 million dollars and signed a non-compete clause.) And, he’s apparently Chicago based… with his Cascade Ventures Inc. located in the suburb of Northbrook, Brown has once again resumed litigating large companies such as Walgreen’s and Whole Foods claiming technology patent violations. Oh, grand… just what Chicago needs, another dodgy businessman. ! Second - Forbes’ contributor Richard Levick published a column at the end of December that states there is a danger lurking in the passionate fight against patent trolls: ! “The problem is that, in our collective zeal to disincentive extortion, we tend to assume that any small company is a troll if it holds a patent it hasn’t used, and is suing a big company that has. By such a generic and, in the current climate, perhaps inevitable expansion of the term “patent trolls,” universities can fall under the stigma, as can small- or medium-sized companies working to develop new products.” (Levick, Forbes, 26 December 2013) ! This is a salient point. So the question becomes “how do we target the evil doer patent trolls the ones who snap up patents and are extortionists… erum, we mean, overly litigious, while allowing for legitimate patent infringement claims to be heard/acted upon?”
  • 3. ! Good question. Perhaps defining “low quality patent claims” in a clear way is a good start? ! Ahem, SCOTUS? ! We shall be interested in watching what happens next in the curious case of Everyone vs. Patent Trolls. ! Kate Kotler, writer. ComboApp.com