Captain Kirk Is A Patent Troll, Is What I Think Just Happened

Do you know who Jay Walker is?  I’m not going to ask if you know who Captain Kirk is because I don’t want to embarrass you on a international national local large small stage if you don’t because holy cow, that’s some huge rock you live under if you don’t know and I say that as a Star Wars fan and not a Star Trek fan.  (Monthly quota for run on sentences?  Met. )

Jay Walker is the guy who founded Priceline back in 1998.  That was just on the cusp of the Internet’s Big Bang, and he saw a way to sell all those unsold airline seats and hotel rooms at the last minute by providing a way for users to simply go online and name your price.  One William Shatner, of aforementioned Captain Kirk fame, was and remains the company’s spokesperson.


“Call me a Patent Troll again, and I’ll ninja you, woman!”

Short history:  Mr. Walker decided to leverage his patent portfolio from the development of Priceline, among I’m sure a great many other ventures, with a company called Walker Digital.  He put the portfolio up for sale but when he didn’t get the bites he wanted, got in bed with Erich Spangenberg at IP Nav and has been asserting his patents since.  Walker Digital sued five people in October of 2011 (heavy hitters like Google and Amazon), three more in February of 2012, and three more in January of this year.  That’s just from what I saw when doing a quick search of my emails from PriorSmart.  According to this article, however, they’ve sued a whole lot more.

Jay Walker (meet him here, he has TED talks so the has to be one of the good guys, right?) is the original patent holder for the portfolio that Walker Digital owns, so I will give him props for at least having something to do with the inventions, as it were, rather than buying off the shelf and then enforcing.  That reduces the ick factor by 1/4, I suppose.  But the fact remains that he uses broad patents issued years ago that can now be shoe-horned into the definition of most of the internet today and he’s taking advantage of that and suing everyone and their Mother.  And while that’s true, it’s also true that he pulled an ESN and filed a lawsuit just as the ink dried on a more recent patent (story via Techdirt here).

Recently Walker Digital merged with GlobalOptions Group which is a forensics company that used to provide services to law enforcement agencies.  So, you know, a natural pairing for a patent assertion entity.  Um, what?  Evidently, Walker needed a way to get on the stock market and that’s why they went all in with Global.   You wonder how the principals of the two companies got together.  Golf?  Their wives knew each other from the Bunco circuit?  We may never know.

Anyway, the companies are now one and will trade under the name Patent Properties Inc., and I do give them props for their understated logo.  They thought completely inside the box on that one. What they’ll do is disrupt the patent market with a new licensing model that “serves the commercial interests of all parties.”  He says that he’s been on all sides of the table when it comes to patent litigation, and he doesn’t like it.  Only oops?  Here’s the sides he’s been on:

He and his companies have sat in every seat around the patent table, as inventor, licensor, licensee and plaintiff.

Maybe my glasses prescription needs updating, but do you see defendant on that list?  To say nothing of the fact that he broke the Oxford comma rule.

Nevertheless, Mr. Walker’s speech here at this link is rather stirring.  He says a lot of the right things, at least where I’m concerned.  But he doesn’t go into enough detail, which is to say that he goes into no detail, about how his innovative licensing system works and what it will entail.  One guess it that he’s product-mapped the patents that are most at play.  This is something that would be a huge data-entry undertaking so maybe that’s why, but how come there’s no big list of patents and the products their used in?  Can we not get that information on any kind of reliable basis?

I guess we’ll just have to wait and see what this new Patent Properties, Inc. and it’s licensing system entails.  But until then, I know that I will never watch another Priceline commercial again without thinking about patents.

And that, my friends, is how you tie Captain Kirk to patent trolls.  I did it with a big derriere, I can do with with science fiction.



{Ninja William Shatner found here.}

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