Trolls are those folks who buy up patents just so that they can file lawsuits against innocent end users on the expectation that small companies will agree to a cash settlement. The trolls add nothing of value. They don't invent anything and they don't produce anything. They simply buy up patents that the real inventors no longer want and sue innocent folks who have no knowledge of the patented technology. They make unreasonable demands for discovery. They distract management's attention. They force companies to hire lawyers to defend themselves against something they had no knowledge of being involved with in the first place. If you want them to let your company alone, you have to pay protection money. It sounds like racketeering and extortion to me!
I was involved with one of these suits a number of years ago. I had to allow the troll's lawyers and legal experts to tour multiple plants, gaining access to confidential processes. I had to provide them with 10's of thousands of pages of drawings and documentation. They had no intention of looking at any of it. It was just their way of being annoying. I showed them systems that pre-dated their purchased patent by 10 years. They claimed it violated their patent.
The trolls are bullies. They won't take on someone their own size. As reported in The Wall St. Journal, in the Cisco case they are suing coffee shops and hotels, not Cisco. In other cases, trolls have sued users of Rockwell Automation equipment, not Rockwell. By suing small guys for moderate amounts, their hope is that small businesses will just pay to make the problem go away.
Presumably it is illegal to shake down shop owners for protection from physical violence. This is a more subtle form of violence. It is financial violence, permitted by patent and legal systems that are broken and out of date. If the newly elected folks in Washington can't agree on anything else, maybe they could take some time to make this type of extortion illegal.
If your company gets drawn in to one of these fights, encourage them to stand up for principles. Before you get drawn in (because you will eventually if this is allowed to flourish), encourage your elected representatives to do something constructive. And if the opportunity presents itself, send encouragement and support to Cisco for standing up to bullies.
Keith is right on the money. Many patents should never have been issued in the first place and yet the tort lawyers are now turning their attention to extort from another group of producers. Shakespeare was right on lawyers...
Posted by: Ron Holmes on December 31, 2012
Keith, patenting is like stripping and show what you have under your pants. Patent if there is, must be shown on proven to be better than others have done or sheer abuse! Fight hard and for whatever it takes not to be taken in; if law & justice there is... or it is just rotten world of unruly! Damn the patent and the law!
Posted by: Y2 Lim on December 31, 2012
Something similar happened to my small company a few weeks ago.
I came up with a product and one of my Slaes people show it to a friend (?/) or customer, he turn to his computer and on his face he purchased my domian from go daddy.com of my product and then he turned around and created a website with that name and then he asked my sales guy to ask me if I wanted to purchase that website from him for $4,500.00.
Of course I did not allowed him and I di not entertain his demand and I created another name for my product and went and puechased that new domain.
He sure cause some two weeks of wated time and money.
Posted by: Rigo Duran on December 31, 2012
We live in a world where IP is hard to protect, and ironically when the wrong people "own" it, they actually impede progress.
Posted by: John Kowal on December 31, 2012
Your article is spot-on. I wrote about a similar problem (http://bestinpackaging.com/2012/04/04/unilevers-online-open-innovation-platform/) and called them cockroaches. I still think some simple solution, something as I proposed, must be able to establish to protect the initial inventor.
Posted by: Anton Steeman on December 31, 2012
We need to protect people invetions as intelectual property is very important. However abuse of it, should be criminal offence and therefore treated that way.
The sneaky other side will step a side if they face higher response - simply because they know what they do it's not right, and they will not risk to become a news.
Posted by: Alex Ljusic on January 2, 2013
I agree and like the Apple- Samsung patent battle, it will be the end consumer that will end up paying a higher price. I realize the courts (Supreme Court) are loaded with discrimination to same marriage issues. But if someone with a bit of $$ and time could get the judges to set strict guidelines for patent infringements. It would be a great for all of us techno fools.
Posted by: Bryan Broda on January 2, 2013
It seems like these days, anyone can sue anyone. Even for the most little of issues, anyone can get robbed of millions of dollars. In this case, these bullies should be stopped as the smaller players in the business are being victimized.
Posted by: Kurt on January 31, 2013