How Many Normal People Does It Take To Equal A Thug, Anyway?

From IP Nav’s comments about the recent Consumer Electronics Show, that ratio sits at about seven to one.  I always enjoy IP Nav‘s comments on things mostly because I think that Barry Leff writes them and I like him.  Never having met him in person, I do believe that he genuinely believes he’s on the right side of this debate, and I like that in a person.

Anyway, here’s a visual for you right-brainers out there:


Evidently, Erich Spangenberg was unhappy that he was the only one on his side of the line up for a talk that was part of the CES Innovation Policy Summit.  Leaving aside the fact my opinion that patents do not equal innovation, it seems the summit drew a crowd, or at least the “Patent Litigation Reform: Who are You Calling a Troll?” panel did.  (For the record, the answer to the question is “You, Erich.”)

Barry’s blog post for IP Nav takes us on a trip down memory lane, because nothing holds one’s interest more than a story about how a troll became a troll.  But oops, wait just a second.  We shouldn’t call Mr. Spangenberg a troll because

He’s not uncomfortable with the term “troll,” as the term has come to mean anyone who files a patent lawsuit.

Don’t make me pull out the Harvey Specter eye roll so early on a Monday morning, please.  *sigh*

Not anyone who files a patent lawsuit is a troll.  You sound like J Nicholas Gross or Andy Pitchford now.  Further, definitely not everyone who files a patent lawsuit is a troll either, only those who behave like thugs are.  You know, like people who go after everyone and their uncle (and even the US Government, for crying out loud) because they have a crap patent that says you can’t scan and email without paying them to do it.  And oh, look!  You agree (emphasis mine):

Picking on app developers, tiny companies and sending letters with no justification is crazy—

Indeed.  But want to hear what’s even crazier?  Suing people using one of your shell companies and not even telling them what they infringed on.  (This is a good write up of those wanton antics, with a great quote from a Techdirt article on same.)  Oh, don’t throw out that tired line about it affecting declaratory judgment and venue.  What you’re trying to do is extract a settlement because taking it to court is more expensive.  That’s the troll MO, whether the troll uses base-less threatening letters or not.

One final quote from the article:

Bad behavior is not exclusively the province of patent owners.

No, it isn’t.  But it’s the province of companies like IP Nav, and there are at least seven normal people who can agree on that.




3 thoughts on “How Many Normal People Does It Take To Equal A Thug, Anyway?

  1. You might be surprised to find that not everyone who was on that panel thinks IPNav is evil.

    And you do not understand the way we work. Our initial contact with a company may not include details, but before we start any negotiations we do disclose, in a great deal of detail, exactly what claims in which patents we believe they infringe, and we invite them to tell us why our patent is weak or why they don’t infringe. Declaratory judgement and venue are valid issues, but we have ways of addressing that.

    You seem to be confusing us with companies such as MPHJ, that expect people to pay up from a demand letter. We never do that.

    • Hi Barry!

      It’s great to “see” you! I’m kind of surprised at the panel’s reaction, but not as disappointed as you may think I’d be.

      It may surprise *you* to know that I see the need for patent monetization companies. There is a real issue for a small inventor who’s trying to get his ideas in front of decision makers at Large and Powerful, Inc. I even wrote about it in the Backgrounder here on the blog.

      But if I’m a patent monetization company and I’m trying to help Igor the Inventor, I guess I would choose the full disclosure route from the get go. You say your initial contact “may not include details”….why not? If you guys only represent strong inventors with strong patents, then what’s the big deal?

      I am not a lawyer, and I don’t even play one on TV but that’s only because the producers of USA’s “Suits” will not return my calls. Maybe there’s a bigger reason for not doing that and I’m just being Naive Nelly, I concede that possibility right up front. But if you guys are legit, then why do you negotiate that way?

      And for the record, I would never confuse y’all with MPHJ. Mac Rust is no Erich Spangenberg.

      Just sayin,


  2. You’re not a lawyer, but you dismiss the declaratory judgement and venue issue out of hand. Ask a lawyer. He or she will tell you that those are real, serious, issues. Contrary to what some people think, it’s not because some venues are likelier to give big awards — if you look at the stats it’s not true. But some venues are MUCH faster than others. And time is money…patent owners want to get their money ASAP. Infringers want to drag it out as long as possible. We go after big infringers who certainly have the resources to strike first if we let them.

    There are “trolls” out there who send vague letters because they don’t bother to even verify infringement, and they have no intention of ever actually filing a lawsuit, because they would lose.

    Our first letter simply says “we think you’re infringing, let’s talk.” And then we get into details. It’s totally different than the people hoping to collect $5000 on the basis of a letter. That’s bush league extortion, and it’s certainly not our business model.

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