I Really Want To Take Back My Dittos, DITTO

Background:  DITTO is a company that lets you try on glasses virtually via an online app, so that you can see what they look like before you buy them.  Some other players in the glasses industry, notably 1-800-Contacts, didn’t like this young padawan learner getting all up in its Jedi business, so they bought a patent and sued DITTO for infringement, the net effect being that DITTO ran out of money to fight and the owners were forced to either sell at less than optimal value or get outside help.  They chose to get outside help from the devil himself a company called IP Nav.

I’ll be honest, I’m hurt.  My feelings were genuinely and inexplicably hurt when I read that DITTO sought help from IP Nav.  At the end of the day, I don’t have a dog in this fight.  Oh, I have a dog alright, but he’s too stupid to care about patent trolls and the fact that a promising start up was just forced to make a deal with the devil to survive.

Well, wait a minute…that’s not entirely true.  I do have $30 worth of dog in this fight, in that I contributed the minimum amount to DITTO’s Indiegogo campaign and got a t-shirt.  There are a few theories I have about why this campaign may not have reached it’s goal (notice my artful avoidance of the word “failed”), not the least of which is the fact that people don’t like to wear purple, even if you try to disguise its purpleishness by calling it “raspberry”.

Nevertheless, it doesn’t matter now.  DITTO has sold out to the worst bidder in the game.  From people that I know who are in the know, I understand that what Mr. Go-thug himself wants more than anything is legitimacy.  He wants to be seen as someone wearing the white hat who swoops in and saves the little guy, and DITTO served that up on a silver platter for him.  They are the little guy he once was himself who just needed someone to help fight off the bullies who’re stealing his lunch money.


Mr. “Go Thug”

You can blame the patent system, and the Wired article does to a certain degree:

For casual observers who don’t follow intellectual property disputes, the whole idea of a system that enables patent trolling is still astonishing. … Patent-trolling seems to directly violate the basic premise of inventing: People who don’t make anything suing people who do.

Fair enough, even given the caveat that all trolls are Non-Practicing Entities (NPEs), but not all NPEs are trolls.  But here’s the crux of the issue:  the small companies that get hit with these suits need a place to go for protection.  Not everyone can be a Rackspace or a Newegg or a Fark (and thank God for that one…you know I love you, Drew!!), all of whom have fought back against the trolls and had success.  This is what Julie Samuels was getting at:

Under such duress, no one should fault any single business or individual for the choices they make in a patent fight, says Julie Samuels, a staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation. “To ask someone who’s facing a patent troll to do what’s best for the world, which is to fight back or make a lot of noise, is often asking them to do something that’s against their short-term interest,” Samuels says. “The systemic problem is different than the problem that any one company finds itself facing.”

That last sentence bears repeating:  “The systemic problem is different than the problem that any on company finds itself facing.” 

I can’t pretend to know what it’s like to be in fear of losing a business the size of DITTO.  I’m not in Kate Endress’s shoes (though she seems way more fashionable than me so I’m betting I’d like them if I were and I’m a ladies size 7 narrow so send some my way and we’ll talk) so, you know, there but for the grace of God go I.   I have owned a company before and own one now, but have never had the kind of pressure that comes with having to lay four people off at once because of pending litigation.  She’s doing what she has to do to survive, we all make choices.

I just wish her choices weren’t between “Lay off the rest of my employees and shutter the  company” and “Lie down with dogs, wake up with fleas.”



{Erich Spangenberg image found via The Dallas Observer.}

3 thoughts on “I Really Want To Take Back My Dittos, DITTO

  1. Pingback: Troll Talk 11/26, And A (Partial) Concession | IP Troll Tracker

  2. Pingback: What Made The Trolls Trolls, Anyway? | IP Troll Tracker

  3. Pingback: The Kind Of Behavior That Only Cousins In Kentucky Should Get Away With | IP Troll Tracker

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