This Is Where The Cowgirl Rides Away

Remember when I said I wasn’t sure what this space would look like going forward?  Surely you do, I mean, I quoted a Toby Keith song  in that blog post and who doesn’t love a Toby Keith song?  No one, that’s who.

The thing is, writing here brings back memories that I would rather it didn’t.  Humpty Dumpty is together again, but should not go climbing back up on the wall because hello?  She He fell off of it.  Duh.

I do have a master plan for what will happen to the content, and if all goes well after I make some calls and send some emails and mail out actual, physical letters like they used to do in the olden days, this might not be the end of the IP Troll Tracker world as we know it.

Pony Express

But it’s the end of it here, because the kids in my home have nine months, 1.5 years, and 2.5 years, respectively, left at home before they are all in college, and the days are getting very short before the things that are most important to me will walk away.  If we’ve done our job right, they will start their lives as happy, well-adjusted, smart, sensitive, successful (however they each define it) individuals who knew their Mom/Step-Mom as someone who loved them first and above everything else in her life.  Even tracking patent trolls who remain the scourge of the intellectual property earth.

My wish is for anyone who has ever read here, ever cursed me under their breath or in email or on Twitter, ever laughed here, or ever been involved in this fight against intellectual property blackmail…that you would know me to be a kind-hearted, God-fearing and God-loving person who tried to win an as-yet-unwinnable battle against the Goliaths that struck fear in the hearts of demand letter recipients nationwide, and indeed worldwide.  For every answered call, consultation, comment and retweet and re-blog and shout-out and mention and follow…for all of the interaction I will remain forever grateful.  To think that a non-attorney, no-name wife and Mom from Katy, TX could generate any response at all, let alone go to the White House, as a result of a blog remains a stunner to me.

To the original Troll Tracker, I want to say thank you for not being angry that I picked up and ran with your blog idea.  To Mallun Yen, I want to say thank you for giving me the opportunity to work for you at RPX.  I remain deeply ashamed that my blog cut short any opportunities to continue working with you…the irony is just…awful.  I never apologized to you in person, and I’ll always be sorry for that.  To Bart Showalter and Kevin Meek, who sent me the very first nastygram spreadsheet that listed out companies who’d sent demand letters to your client while we worked at Baker Botts, I want to say how much I appreciate you bringing me into the fight.  Remember that day we found out who the Troll Tracker was?  I’ll never, ever forget it.  There are many others, too many to name here, but thank you all.

Cheers,

Steph

And my heart is sinking like the setting sun, setting on the things I wish I’d done.  Though the last goodbye’s the hardest one to say…this is where the cowgirl rides away.

~ George Strait

{Pony Express image found here.}

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Finally, A Diagnosis: Münchausen Syndrome by Proxy

Note:  This was drafted forever ago, and in reviewing old posts I came across it.  I liked it and, unsure of why I never actually published it way back when, hit publish on it yesterday.  I expected, and I have no earthly idea why because that’s not even remotely how the space/time continuum works, that it would publish under the date it was drafted, and slot nicely in between other relevant (at the time) posts.  Only not so much.

So, enjoy this blast from the past and pretend that it’s relevant to now.  

I new there was a word for this and if I couldn’t find it I was just going to have to make one up.  The definition of my word would be: “Companies who create a problem that they are the only ones who can solve.”  Patent trolls are not a whole lot unlike those door-to-door salesmen of 1950’s American folklore who knocked on the front door and when you opened it, they tossed in a handful of dirt and then tried to sell you the “only vacuum in the world” capable of cleaning it up.  Not surprisingly, people became a little leery of opening their door to strangers and so someone had to invent the “No Soliciting” sign and a whole new industry and set of laws was born.  Thank you, Kirby vacuum guys.

Let’s move this logic over the patent world where we have two recent examples of companies getting in bed with a troll to avoid…getting trolled.  Say what?  Exactly.

It’s no secret that Nest has built a really sexy thermostat.  Normally, I object strenuously to the use of the term “sexy” in business because blech and ewww??  Inappropriate.  But there’s just not another word that does justice to this piece of engineering:

Nest_Orange

This thing is awesome and would look particularly fetching in my front entryway, replacing the circa 1998 Honeywell electronic thermostat that hangs there now.  And therein lies the rub: Honeywell doesn’t like the new player on the block and so went after Nest for patent infringement.  What did Nest do?  Crawled right into the arms of Intellectual Ventures for some protection .  This is not wholly dissimilar from what Ditto had to do, selling out to IP Nav to get 1-800-Contacts off their back.

Oh, the irony.

Maybe this is exactly what the trolls had in mind to begin with?  First, you go after everyone and their dog for patent infringement, focusing in recent years on the young and weak like startups, and then when the problem has become so rampant in the industry, you offer a “solution” which is nothing more than protection from people like yourself.

As the title of this post suggests. we already have a name for this phenomenon:  Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy.  The reality of that particular psychiatric factitious disorder is far sadder because it involves children being harmed and as a Mom let me just tell you that stealing the idea of a girdle brings a microscopic portion of fury as compared to what you’d deal with if you hurt my kid.

But the theory is the same:  you’re “there for” people that are trying to get away from a problem that you created.

IPTT

Nest image found here.  (That is not an affiliate link, I don’t hawk thermostats.)

I Ain’t As Good As I Once Was, But I’m As Good Once As I Ever Was

There was a time, back in my prime, when I could really hold my own.  And then?  Just like that {insert snap of fingers here} it all went *BLOOP!*, and promptly  fell apart.

humpty-dumpty

Unlike Humpty Dumpty, however, this egg was not doomed to failed attempts at righting by completely inept horses and men belonging to some random king.  No, this egg is going to be just fine, thankyouverylittle, and has put herself back together.  No king’s men needed.  Though if you have a spare one laying around, I’m happy to take him off your hands as long as he looks like Prince William and brings those three delightful children with him.  Someone needs to warn Scotland Yard to look under my sofa should any of the mini-royals go missing because they are ADORABLE and I would take them and raise them all as my own given 1/2 a chance.

Interpol descending on my home in 4…3…2…

Anyhoot…It’s taken almost three years for me to come back to this once-familiar home and I’m not entirely sure why I’m here except that I am OCD and the idea of having no closure on this chapter of my life is something that keeps me up at night, in the very same way that “I wonder what Greg Evigan is doing these days?” doesn’t.

Huge and potentially incredibly embarrassing side bar:  Greg Evigan was the star of a 1980’s TV show about a trucker and his pet monkey (because that’s not at all bizarre) Bear, who was named after the famous coach of the Alabama Crimson Tide, Bear Bryant,  and I once told Dawn Butkowsky, who was my good friend in the 3rd grade, that he was my uncle.  Oh yes, you read that right.  Only in my incredibly vivid imagination, he drove a blue truck instead of a red one, and would, in actual fact, be driving down her street one upcoming weekend, and I was sure to alert her well in advance so that she could rush out there and verify my story.  Which of course never happened, but Dawn never called me on it and I appreciate that to this day.  Side bar 2:  I once worked at a loan services company for a short nine months and my whackadoodle boss told me that Greg Evigan had hit on her at a party once, something only Dawn Butkowsky would believe.

BJ and the Bear2

So that’s it.  In my absence I have been reminiscing about old 80’s television and nursery rhymes.  And Toby Keith, of course.

The blog will remain up through the end of the year, and then I’ll probably save it out in book form to read to my grandchildren at night, because nothing says “Sweet Dreams!” like companies wielding completely bogus patents as weapons in legal warfare.  Zzzzzzing!

If I can find the time over the holidays to catch up with what’s been going on in Patent Troll Land, I’d love to resurrect this old beast.  A lot has changed though, and I don’t want to commit myself to anything beyond what I’m making for dinner tonight.  And I probably can’t even do that so what I’m actually saying is I have no idea what will happen in this space, and “Fend for yourselves with whatever’s in the fridge, kids!”

JustSayin_small_New

Steph, IPTT

{Humpty Dumpty image found here.  BJ and the Bear image found, surprisingly at all, but here.}

The Best Post on Patent Reform (Not Written By Me, I Mean)

For years now, people have been screaming for patent reform, most notably to help get rid of, or at least neuter, patent trolls.  But then as soon as that happens, we know it will be temporary because the trolls will invent “neuticals for trolls” (and patent it) and they’ll be hard at work all over again which is why I’ve never been a huge fan of letting the government fix a problem that they created to begin with.  I think the market is the best place to kick a troll’s ass and companies like Newegg are taking that to whole new levels and OMG how hard was it to write about patent reform, and an excellent blog post about it, before jumping on that bandwagon?  VERY HARD, that’s how.

whoopass IP Trolltracker

Can of Whoop Ass appearing courtesy of Newegg.

The post in question was written by one Florian Mueller and it had me hootin’ and hollerin’ and  fist pumping so hard throughout that I kid you not, my neighbor saw me through the window of my home-office and thought something was wrong, came over and rang my doorbell, set my silver labrador retriever off in a fit of barking, and cost me an hour of productivity while we all wound down.  Thanks for that, Florian.

There’s so much gold in this post I’m finding that even after sifting, my pan is full of the good stuff.  But I’ll start with this quote, because I think it’s genius:

In all those congressional hearings on patent reform that I watched, each and every politician repeated the mantra of the U.S. patent system being key to innovation and allegedly being the envy of the world, when the reality is that it’s the laughing stock of patent and industry professionals in the rest of the world.

First off, I’m not convinced that, anymore, the patent system is the key to innovation.  Why?  Because you can innovate without patents.  You can be successful, you can launch a product (with or without funding), you can win at life without a patent.  True story.

To continue the quote:

…and no one believes that U.S. juries are qualified to determine infringement and validity issues, no one has ever disagreed with me that the Federal Circuit is generally too patent-holder-friendly, and no one has ever disagreed with me that the quality of USPTO-granted patents is generally even lower than that of European patents.

Exactly.  I said the exact same thing in October of 2012 and again in December of 2013.   I’m not knocking Joey Bag-o-donuts.  I’m saying that patent law is tricky and sneaky and full of all kinds of techno-speak that finding a “jury of your peers” in that space would require visiting Stanford or Harvard or South Texas College of Law and plucking students out of the sessions in law school that deal with IP, not sending a letter in the mail to people who live within a ten mile radius of the court house in Marshall, Texas.

Courthouse_Marshall IP Trolltracker

So pretty. Too bad the shot didn’t include the ice skating rink that Samsung built. Zzzing!

Continuing, I want to put this quote on a sandwich board and wear it on Capital Hill (when it warms up, of course):

It must be said that the correlation between patents and innovation in a country is hardly a causation of patents promoting innovation, that patents increasingly serve as a substitute rather than an incentive for innovation, and that studies linking patents to innovation are often based on circular logic, considering each patent an innovation.

See statement above.  Patents NEQ Innovation.

The whole point of Mr. Mueller’s post is, after correctly identifying the problem, to point out ways to use the governmental process to fix what’s wrong.  I don’t agree with everything on his list because that would be way boring.  But I do think he’s got a couple of points that the dialogue should start addressing if we’re to solve the problem:

  1. Don’t blame it all on the trolls.  I blame a LOT on patent trolls (mostly global climate warming change because I can tell by looking that they’re the reason for all the snow this year), and I think the behavior of using patents in sneaky and underhanded ways is deplorable and I’ll keep writing about it until they’ve all gone the way of the horse and buggy.  But we can’t ignore the fact that the USPTO gave them the stick with which to beat that drum.
  2. One size does not fit all.  Different industries require different approaches to protecting intellectual property.  Realize that, and make the necessary changes to the law to account for it.
  3. Meritocracy.  So, I can’t really paraphrase what he said here because I can’t get the words to come out right.  But go read what he says in that section of his blog post, nod your head in agreement, and come back here and thank me for calling it out.  You’re welcome.

One thing I didn’t see on his list is venue reform.  As we all know, I’m not a fan of letting the government solve the problem of patent trolls per se.  To some, that’s what “patent reform” is, killing the likes of Intellectual Ventures and Uniloc, et al.  I don’t like that definition.  If we broaden it to include Florian’s list and add venue reform so that Marshall, Texas and the judges and claims construction experts and jurors who live there are taken down a notch or ten, then I’m all about that hashtag.

Creating the patents system didn’t happen overnight, and fixing it won’t happen that fast either.  Figuring out how to start the dialog that will yield the best results is half the battle, I think.

Thank you, Mr. Mueller, for articulating it so well.

JustSayin_small_New

IPTT

{Courthouse image found here.  Can of whoop-ass found on every pantry shelf in the state of Texas.}

 

 

Besides Which, Don’t You *Want* The Blades To Wear Out?

In the shot heard round the last remnant of beard-free men in the world, Gillette took a swipe at Dollar Shave Club using a patent as the bullet. Surprise, surprise! A patent being used as a weapon to beat down the competition.

Gillette? Despite my dependance on the Fusion (the men’s version, at that, but don’t tell Gloria Steinem) razor and blades, you disappoint. You’re a stalwart, a centuries-old American Icon. When an upstart challenged your delivery model and offered a product that may or may not actually be better than yours in a more convenient way, you came out swinging with a patent-bat rather than hunker down and focus on the real problem: disruption.

kennedy_terry2, IP Troll Tracker

Here’s where I reveal my love for baseball, in the form of Terry Kennedy, former catcher for the San Diego Padres and San Francisco Giants. Took me four years to work this in, so I hope you appreciate it.  (You do get it, right?  Batter? Bat? Patent-bat?)

 

Yeah, I went there with the 2015 Word of the Year because the year’s almost over and I want to get a piece of that action.

The rub is over blades that have a coating on them, a patent for which was issued in 2004, that prevents the blades from getting dull as quickly. Now, I’m no razor mogul and I don’t even have an MBA, but I use razors and know that when one gets dull, I have to go buy more. Putting a coating on the end of a razor to make it last longer actually seems counter-productive to the whole “sell them the refill razors” philosphy, or am I missing something?

That notwithstanding, now Dollar Shave Club has to stop what it’s doing and fight a patent war. The idea on Gillette’s end is to slow DSC’s roll until their own “day late and a dollar (snicker) short” entry into the razor delivery club takes off.

To wit:

“But here’s the rub: Gillette launched a subscription service last year that took direct aim at Dollar Shave Club and largely replicated its business model. While online retailers like Amazon and Target have offered subscriptions to Gillette’s disposable razors for years, the brand took a long time to launch its own product and lost considerable market share to rivals like Dollar Shave Club and Harry’s.”

So the 400 lb gorilla on the block got beat at its own game by an upstart and they don’t like it. Fair enough. No one likes a copycat. But you know what people like even less? A 400 lb gorilla that stamps its feet and holds its breath until it gets its way.

Jill Greenberg, IP Troll Tracker

Image copyright Jill Greenberg.

 

What I also don’t get is this: do the razors offered through the subscription service differ substantially from what I am buying in the store? Why couldn’t I just put a standing re-order in for the blades I’m already buying and have them delivered to me every X months? I’m failing to understand why Gillette couldn’t have done what DSC did, sooner and better.

Oh, wait.

DSC has Michael Dubin and Gillette has…I dunno. And that’s the issue. People love funny and viral and goofy CEOs who clown around hawking their product. Hipster doofuses, of which there are a veritable plethora these days, identify way more with those types of antics than they do with an old American company that is the same one their decidedly non-hipster doofus Dads used. Personality matters, folks.

No, I am not calling Gillette a troll, Paul. But they’re acting awfully trollish by going after the competition like this. As if we all can’t see what’s going on here, right?

C’mon, Gillette. You’re better than that.

JustSayin_small_New

IPTT

{Image of a young Terry Kennedy found here, whiney baby image from Jill Greenberg, found here}

A Rare Friday Evening Post

Or, as I like to call it these days, “a rare post”.

I’m not typically given to personal posts because I prefer to let everyone assume my life is as fabulous as possible.  Which of course it is because I’m me.  But since it’s been so long, I thought I’d jump in and update with a few bullet points:

  • WTH is up with eDekka??  That one company is driving a lot of traffic so I’m going to spend my Friday night reading up on what’s going on instead of eating cake icing out of a plastic tub relaxing in the bath.
  • There’s a troll that is after a friend of mine (and I do consider him a friend) and that’s the next post up.  Also?  Please don’t unfriend me, friend, because I haven’t written that press release.  Yet.
  • I completely forgot to finish my Q3 Quarterly Troll Report for this year like I said I would do.  I’m only telling you this because #vulnerability.  I hear that’s a thing now?  If so, then I’m on fleek.  If not, then I’m off fleek.  Which is totally a thing.

Have a great weekend, everyone!

JustSayin_small_New

IPTT

…And For Our Next Patent, A Portal To Narnia!

Twitter debates are my favorite, and I fell sideways into one last week, as opposed to starting one jumping in with both feet like I normally do.   It began with a simple tweet from Mike Masnick (of TechDirt):

OriginalTweet_Thoth

It was in reference to a long, tall, beast of a tube that will put space craft and their inhabitants closer to orbit before launch, being built by a company named Thoth.  Thoth is a Canadian company whose website is not thoth.com, but thothx.com.  Interesting, because that’s kind of like the suffix of another space company.

IP Troll Tracker

Anyway, all I did (she said innocently, while batting her eyes) is retweet it which caught the attention of my colleague Nick Gross.  The reply tweets that ensued are referenced below, and as you can see it escalated quickly:

ReplyTweets_Thoth

I’ll not post the rest of the exchange because male posturing ensued and we all know that means denigrating each other’s…colleges.  There was jail time mentioned, federal crimes, it got kinda ugly and all over what?  The fact that companies sometimes patent stuff they never intend to build.

Why might a company do that, you ask?  Well, there’s the option that Intellectual Ventures takes, which is to patent stuff so they can go sue people.  I wondered to myself if that’s what Thoth had in mind…maybe they should patent their technology because Space Tube Elevator Lift Kit technology is sure to be a hot thing these days and they had better protect their “innovation” lest someone beat them to the atmosphere.

I expected to come up with a goose egg when I search for competition on this particular space race, but low and behold it seems that building a a giant corrugated tube up to the sky is, indeed, a “thing”, as this Kickstarter intimates.  Then there’s this page, which is straight out of 1990, but talks nonetheless about a space elevator.  There were a few others, enough to make me think that maybe this was a defensive patenting move.

Maybe it’s a licensing play?  Patent the technology, never intending to build such an unwieldy beast, and just license it to others to fund your existing products (none of which, by the way, are on anywhere near this scale)?

The point of the argument on Twitter was that Thoth did indeed secure funding to build, though strangely the article linked by @JNGross only talks about how much it would cost, not the source of the money, so that meant that they weren’t just another company patenting something for the other reasons I listed above. And OK, you have a point there, but seriously?  You’re going to blow someone else’s $5-10 Billion on a 30% reduction in rocket fuel costs and possible gains in efficiency?

I’m not a rocket scientist because I didn’t go to CalTech or MIT, but good golly, Miss Molly…that’s a pretty low ROI.

JustSayin_small_New

IPTT

{Church lady meme found here, and obviously ©SNL}