It Was The Apostrophe’s Fault, Officer!

I purposely didn’t read Techdirt’s write up on NPR’s “When Patents Attack – Part II” until after I’d had a chance to listen to it myself.  It’s kind of like waiting until I finish all my vegetables before digging into the M&Ms.  I like to reward myself for good behavior because I’m really a 10 year old who needs that sort of motivation.

The idea of this second installment from NPR was to sort of prove up their case that Intellectual Ventures is a patent troll.  I imagine that among the {insert number of IV employees here} people who still believe it isn’t, that’s a worthy goal.  To someone like, say, me, just for example, it was completely unnecessary.  I knew before listening to either installment exactly what these guys are all about.

Nevertheless, it was fun to listen to the testimony of Peter Detkin once again because is this guy for real or what? It was like having  a conversation with my 12 yr old son who is extremely adept at circumventing all attempts to nail him for bad behavior that we actually witnessed so it’s not as if we didn’t catch him red-handed yet he will argue to the death with you.  You gotta wonder what kind of lawyer that kid will make some day, though I shan’t encourage that career path.

The upshot was that one Chris Crawford patented an idea that wasn’t totally his, and Peter Detkin at IV bought that patent and accused a whole host of people (under the cloak of a shell company, as trolls are wont to do) of infringing, only on account of the fact that he’s a terrible grammarian and a few good eggs (named Carbonite and EMC) refused to pay up when given a shake-down notice, that patent was invalidated and Oopsies!  He done been outed as a nefariously-acting patent troll.

I was asked just this morning what I thought distinguished a true patent troll from an NPE, or a company who acts on behalf of inventors who just can’t get in the door at a company who might want to use, or may already be using, their patented idea.  My response, in part, was that you have to look at both intent and outcome.   What is the intent of the party who is acting on behalf of the patent holder?  Is the intent to take a legitimate fee for finding a patent licensee and getting the inventor in the door?  Or is the intent to wield that patent as a hacksaw, going after anyone and everyone who might remotely have considered using anything like it?

Further, what is the outcome of the relationship?  Is it a fair price for the inventor?  A better product for the licensee, and therefore (albeit presumably) a better product for the consumer? When you look at the behavior of patent trolls, you have to consider that IV took 90% of the profits from the licensing of Chris Crawford’s patent.  Never mind that Mr. Crawford was a tad shady himself in that he didn’t exactly share credit as he should have, is taking 90% of his money really in his best interests?  Of course not.  But it IS in the best interests of Oasis Intellectual Ventures.  So, you know, troll.

There’s an old axiom that I turn to when life gets complicated for me in any particular area.  It’s this:

Pluralitas non est ponenda sine necessitat

What?  You don’t read Latin, like Dan?  Here it is again:

Plurality is not to be posited without necessity.

You may recognize that from the movie Contact as Occam’s Razor:  All things being equal, the simplest explanation tends to be the correct one.  So when you find a man reduced to arguing over the use of grammar, you know he’s reaching.  It’s called a smoke screen.  A deflection.  While you’re disoriented by the flash-bang over here, the real story is over there, underneath the pile of cash being extorted earned with bad patents.

Just sayin,



2 thoughts on “It Was The Apostrophe’s Fault, Officer!

  1. Pingback: Obama Administration Goes After Phantom Enemy; Patent Trolls Are a Symptom, Hardly the Only Problem | Techrights

  2. Pingback: Intellectual Ventures (Might Be) Tied To Lodsys: Wait, What? | IP Troll Tracker

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s