Happy New Year, Wherein I Get Personal With You

Most of the time, like 99.9%, I’m full of piss and vinegar on the blog.  I write like I talk and like I think and I think very bad thoughts about patent trolls so that’s what ends up here.  And yes, I totally just said “piss” on my blog and I’m certain that the next time I see my Mother there will be a bar of Ivory with my name on it.  (That mom in A Christmas Story has nothing on her, I’ll tell you that much.)

a-christmas-story-2

I love New Year’s Eve, because it gives me a chance to go back over all my lists and goals that I wrote out this same time last year.  For example, I pick twelve books to read each year and almost always read more than twelve and most of the time, some of the twelve that I read are even on the list that I wrote!  It just helps to have a list even if I know it will be edited throughout the year.

One of the things on my non-book list, despite the P&V attitude alluded to above (alliteration!!) is to be full of gratitude for what I have been given.  It helps to make a list of people and things for which we are thankful, at the start of the year, at the end of the year, and every day in between.  On this end of the year day, I thought it appropriate to make my gratitude list public.  I want to name names (first names only because let’s face it, not everyone may be interested in being associated with me, lol!) and call out those who’ve been especially helpful in my journey, both personally and professionally.

So to the following people, I want to say a deep, heartfelt Thank You for all that you’ve done:

Patrick
Tim
Joe
Drew
Rick
Jorge
(can’t name this one, you know who you are)
Peter
Peter
Mikaela
Cheryl
Bart
Kevin
Lee
J
Andy
Kelli
Andy
Raj
Barry

And to everyone who has read this blog, commented on this blog, tweeted to me, favorited something I’ve tweeted, or retweeted me, a genuine Thank You to you as well.  It means the world to me that you care.  <— OMG, I care that you care!  Please, whatever you do, don’t tell anyone.  Especially the trolls.  🙂

Happy New Year, one and all!

IPTT

{Ralphie image found here.}

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Universal Problem, Universal Solution

If you follow me on Twitter which you totally should because there’s lots of talk about patents and the trolls thereof and also?  I live with no less than three pre-teen children and a husband and a Texas Blue Lacy so really, is there a better place to find snarky comments or sarcasm?  Probably not, that’s the answer you’re looking for.

Mayday

Mayday the blue lacy, enjoying the mountains of Colorado.
Great dog. Very stubborn. Just like his someone else we know.
(Hint: totally not me.)

This blog post totally just jumped the shark…

If you follow me on Twitter (trying this lead-in sentence again since I got off track the first time), you’ll note that there’s been a bit of a back and forth between myself and one Andy Pitchford and J Nicholas Gross about this whole troll problem.  The problem is that trolling isn’t an exact science.  Sometimes a company can act like a troll and sometimes not.  Some companies always act like trolls, even if they proclaim to be helping the little guy.  I’ve said before that identifying a patent troll is kind of like defining obscenity:  I can’t tell you what it is, but I know it when I see it.

I think the patent troll problem is pretty big, if not completely universal just yet.  Some people (*cough, cough* Andy and J Nicholas) aren’t convinced there’s a problem at all.  Some people are proud there’s a problem.  (Looking squarely at you, IP Nav).

The point is this: not everything is a universal problem and can be solved with a universal solution.  With patent litigation and patent trolls, there are very specific criteria that I think can be used to narrow the field of players even if a singular litmus test doesn’t (yet) exist.  But even when that field is narrowed, I think the solution for the problem is not so simple.  I think it will take many different combined approaches to stop the trolling behavior:  exposure of demand letters, legislation (though it’s my least favorite option), companies with business models that combat the problem, Ninjas, and the eventual burn-out of the trolls when the market is able to exploit some other issue with another sector of the economy beyond Intellectual Property.

So what does this have to do with Christmas?  Need I remind you that I was able to successfully link Charles Barkley’s derriere to patents so tying patents to Christmas is pretty much a slam dunk for me.  <– See what I did there?

What it has to do with it is this:  some problems are universal, and they require a universal solution.  Something to bridge the gap that was formed when men decided to go their own way.  To be the once and for all answer to the problems that separate us from the love we so desperately need.

What is the solution?  A baby.

What child is this, who, laid to rest,
On Mary’s lap is sleeping?
Whom angels greet with anthems sweet,
While shepherds watch are keeping?
This, this is Christ the King,
Whom shepherds guard and angels sing:
Haste, haste to bring Him laud,
The Baby, the son of Mary.

So bring him incense, gold, and myrrh,
Come, peasant, king, to own him.
The King of kings salvation brings,
Let loving hearts enthrone him.
Raise, raise a song on high,
The virgin sings her lullaby
Joy, joy for Christ is born,
The baby, the Son of Mary.

“Come peasant, king, to own him”.  In any station we may find ourselves, we all need and can own a solution to our problems.

What child is this?  Just a savior, that’s all.

I wish one and all a very, very Merry Christmas, even if you’re a patent troll.

JustSayin_small_New

IPTT

An Open Letter To Garth Brooks, Of Whom I Am No Longer A Fan

NPR:  Not patent related.

Dear Garth Brooks:

Do you know what year this is? I’ll tell you…it’s 2013. You put out your best life’s work in a format that, honestly, shouldn’t even exist anymore. The CD is the new 8-track, my friend.

But I fell for it and bought your new box set, braving Walmart on Black Friday to do so, mind you, because my husband dearly loves you (personally, I like your wife better because she can really cook and I know this because she comes on Food Network right after The Pioneer Woman and I’m way too lazy to change channels on Saturday mornings ) and that’s all he wanted for Christmas.

So I go to rip the CDs to my iTunes library because, referencing the first paragraph here, IT’S THE YEAR TWO THOUSAND AND THIRTEEN and no one switches CDs anymore only it won’t work because of you and your completely idiotic and cut-off-your-nose-to-spite-your-face hatred of all things mp3 or mp4. You have blocked that process during the manufacturing of the CDs.

What.the.hell????

I hate you and all that you stand for and I hope that when you come back on tour no one goes because they have no free time to attend concerts WHAT WITH ALL THE SWITCHING OF CDS THEY’RE HAVING TO DO.

Sincerely,

Steph

(I don’t really hate you but right now?  I totally really hate you.)

Panasonic Pulls An Ericsson, Sells Out To (Hybrid) Troll

Panasonic is going the way of Ericsson and possibly (but we can hope not) Amazon** by selling off some patents to a PAE.  What, wait?  It must be Christmastime because I don’t usually use any euphemisms for “patent troll”.

Panasonic has recently snuggled up in bed with WiLAN, who’s a troll but are they really? Well, let’s see now, they own these guys who are about to get Ninja STAR-ed all to hell so yeah, they’re at minimum a hybrid-troll.  And by that I mean they outsource their trolling efforts to subsidiaries to make it harder for people to figure out what’s really going on.  You can run, but you can’t hid forever, WiLAN.

You have to wonder why companies do this.  I checked their stock history (Panasonic is traded in Japan) and it doesn’t appear to have gone down significantly recently; in fact, the opposite is true.  So it can’t be a panic-driven sale based on revenue, can it?  Disclaimer:  All I know about the stock market I learned from reading The Westing Game in fourth grade and watching the movie Wall Street, so my “qualifications” in this area approach zero.  But normally, you see this sort of patent asset monetization effort when companies are otherwise going down.  This doesn’t appear to be the case here, unless, again, I’m all sorts of wrong about their stock price.

CharlieSheenWallStreet

Nothing to see here, folks.
She doesn’t know squat about stocks.

So why else?  From the linked WSJ article above:

 … Panasonic will assign [900 semiconductor patents and applications] to Collabo Innovations Inc., a new WiLAN subsidiary, certain patents from Panasonic Automotive & Industrial Systems Co., one of Panasonic’s internal companies.

According to my friends at Patent Buddy, Panasonic’s parent company holds over 14,000 patents.  There are about 20 or so different subsidiaries listed as patent holders as well so the grand total is more than that.  To assign only 900 of them is not a huge percentage (less than 10).  So maybe this isn’t the harbinger of either bad news or of a wholesale change in operational strategy for them.  Maybe it’s just that they don’t want to be in the semiconductor industry anymore?  Could it be that simple?

If that’s the  case, then someone within the company just missed out on a new job title.  Chief Patent Monetization Officer.  CPMO.  You’re welcome, C-level employee naming convention people.  It could be kind of like in-house legal counsel position.  Sure, there may be times when you have to outsource your legal issues to the Big Guns, but in the case of patents, especially with the whole trolling issue getting national attention these days, why would you want to team up publicly with a company that many see as behaving badly in the patent landscape? Why not hire some awesome patent expert and pay them to help you monetize your assets all by your lonesome?  In addition to not contributing to the patent troll problem, you’ll save money.  As the idea of a CPMO is fairly new, I don’t know that we have any salary data but I feel like it’s safe to say that whatever that position may pay, it’s less than the fees someone like Collabo Innovations Inc./WiLAN is going to suck from your bottom line.

At the end of the day, this may be a case of privateering by Panasonic, plain and simple.  Companies are of course free to do that, though I stick by what I said:

Call me old fashioned, but what happened to hard work and ingenuity to “oust [your] competitors”?  Must we play dirty just because everyone else is?  Is it naive to think you have to join this type of ne’er-do-well strategy to remain relevant and profitable in today’s technology world?

I didn’t think so then and I don’t think so now.

JustSayin_small_New

IPTT

{Charlie Sheen image from the movie Wall Street found at IMDB.}

**Though I really hope it doesn’t happen, if you think Amazon won’t sell off their patents at some point, on account of not even being profitable yet, then think again. I’m just imagining that the whole drone delivery system is fraught with patents, right?  I don’t think they think that will ever work (see subsequent paragraph), so this is probably just a ploy to get people to want to license their patents surrounding the process, is what I’m saying.

Which, by the way, drone package delivery is an idea my almost 11 and 13 yr old sons have been looking at closely in terms of what gauge shotgun they’ll need to shoot one of those suckers smooth out of the sky, and how they might dismantle it, should their aim not be true and it actually manage to land anywhere in their vicinity. I cannot image who thought those flying delivery helicopters might be considered anything other than target practice for the world’s preteen boys.

How To Hire A Ninja, Patent Edition

You know there’s something wrong with the US patent system when you have to go all ninja on it.  But that’s exactly what the folks over at Article One Partners are doing with their latest offering called Operation Ninja STAR.

I’ve written about these guys lots of times before because I believe so strongly in their business model.  They are attacking the patent troll problem at the root, which is the very best way to get rid of the weeds that are choking out good businesses.  Increasingly, as has been written about pretty much all over the internet and you can find that out by searching for “start ups + patent trolls” (see how I hook you up like that, all giving you the search terms and everything?), the trolls are going after the little guy.

Used to, patent trolls would get all up in the business of the big guys, the Deep Pockets.  Those are the folks who just want to swat the little gnats away and have the money to do it so they pay the ridiculous extortion licensing fees and go on about their merry way.  But when the big kids on the block got sick of it and started saying “Um, no”, the trolls decided they’d hit up Mom and Pop and gamer/app dudes and see how that played out.  Less licensing fees up front because it’s not like you can get blood out of turnip or anything, but they make it up on volume because there’s lots of little guys.  Not a bad business strategy and one that’s been working.

It’s this little guy who finds him or herself in the crosshairs with no idea how they got there or how to get out.  So who ya gonna call?  Trollbusters.  Or a Ninja, as it were.

Ninja1

Imma get you, TROLLS.

The program is pretty straightforward in that the Advisory Board (check out who’s on the listholla!!) works together with the folks at Article One to select a patent that is particularly interesting to the trolls, or has already been used as a bat to beat the little guys with.  An Indiegogo campaign is set up and when the goal is reached, SHAZAAM!!  A repository of patent info goodness is created and anyone who is threatened using that patent can gain access to the whole pot ‘o honey.  Sweet.

I realize that our esteemed {ahem} leaders are working on the problem with all their laws and proposed laws and passing of things like the Innovation Act.  That can be a good thing I suppose, and it shows that those of us who bang the drum are being heard.  But if you really want to stop the problem, you’ve gotta take to the streets…meet the bad guys at the patent where it all starts and give them the beat-down.

You know, like a Ninja.

JustSayin_small_New

IPTT

{Adorable Ninja image found here.}

On Patent Infringement Trials And Their Jurors

Newegg lost their lawsuit with TQP Development Erich Spangenberg before the Thanksgiving break.  How does such a bad decision come out of such a pretty courthouse, is what I want to know!

historic.courthouse1-640x302

from Joe Mullins’ Ars Technica post. Did you take that photo? Lovely!

And you know what?  I do know.  I know exactly how this stuff happens, and because I’m cool like that I’ll go ahead and share the love.

Follow me along the trail here, if you will:

  • The people who file patents, by and large, have law degrees.
  • The people who issue patents, examiners at the USPTO, have engineering degrees.
  • The people who send out demand letters threatening an infringement suit are lawyers or self-described thugs.
  • The people who argue patent infringement cases have law degrees.
  • Yet, inexplicably, the people who decide patent infringement cases are…butchers?  Bakers? Candlestick makers?

Does anyone else see a problem here?

This is why, as I wrote about well over a year ago, so many companies settle with patent trolls.  Not only do the not have the money to fight a lawsuit, they don’t want to take their chances with a jury if they do.  You could end up with Velvin Hogan as your foreman, for heaven’s sake!  This is what I said then, and it’s apropos now:

Then there is the problem of putting very technical arguments in front of the general public.  That’s not a slam on the general public, for I are one of them.   Patent infringement trials are fraught with all manner of industry-speak and jargon and terms that people have to look up in order to understand.  Or worse, they need the lawyers to explain it them and we all know how that is likely to end up.  (Hint:  lawyers are terribly partisan explainers, in that they explain only the part of the definition they want you to know, the part that will tip the verdict in their favor.)  Unless you just enjoy spending your time reading about the ins and outs of your newest gadget, all that stuff is going to fly over your head.  And if you buy into the rhetoric that corporations are E.V.I.L. and don’t deserve to make money, then you’re almost always going in with the attitude that Deep Pockets is wrong and the Patent Troll is right.  It’s an easy assumption that is difficult to overcome no matter how good your lawyer is.

It’s probably not fair for me to blame this verdict on the jury, when the blame squarely belongs on poor patents and companies that abuse them like IP Nav.  But good grief, Charlie Brown.  This is not a situation where a “jury of your peers” applies.  If I’ve been mugged or my neighbor’s septic tank has overflowed into my backyard and they refused to pay for the resulting damage (not that that happened to my family as a child and has forever scarred me and now I can’t live in homes where there’s a septic tank) or if I were to spill hot coffee on myself and try to get money out of McDonalds then things would be different.  In those cases?  I need my peers.  People like me who live similar lives, and who do and experience similar things that I do and experience.

good-grief-charlie-brown_edited

Patent infringement is so not a mainstream “thing” that any of my peers get.  You want to know how I know this?  Because when I tell people that I write about patents and patent trolls and lawsuits and such their eyes glaze over they respond with a head-tilt and a very polite “Well.  That’s…interesting.” And then they nod off to sleep and their heads bob forward and slam onto the table at the little cafe where we’re having lunch, the cafe that I will never get invited back to because I talk about boring things like patent trials.  That?  That’s how I know.

I don’t have a solution for who should determine verdicts in patent infringement cases.  I know that outside of the patent troll issue there is certainly plenty of legitimate disagreement over patents and those disagreements need to be heard and vetted by a group of someones.  I’m just not sure it should be a group of someones who live in Marshall, Texas.

Which, by the way, does anyone track juror service up there?  I mean, there’s not but 67,000 people in the whole darn county.  My freshman English class at UT had that many,  (OK, not really.  It had 350 which is pretty much exactly the same.)  and probably only about 1/4 of those are even eligible for service.  How do we know that the same people aren’t being dragged into the courtroom every two weeks for another stint?

We don’t, but it doesn’t matter.  They would still have made the wrong decision in this case.

I’m glad Newegg’s going to appeal and I hope that they win and it’s not just because that’ll mean a loss for IP Nav/Erich Spangenberg/TQP Development.

Actually?  It’s totally because of that.

JustSayin_small_New

IPTT

{Charlie Brown image found here. I’ll cop to the (super simple) photoshopping.}