Washington, DC Makes You Pay For Bags, Even If You Go To A White House Event

I would have written this post sooner, but I was too busy being traumatized by my “bag experiences” on the trip to DC.   Texas doesn’t charge for bags, y’all, because how are you supposed to get four vitamin waters and the latest ELLE magazine and possibly three Twix bars from the counter in CVS to your car without one?  It’s silly on the face of it, you Yankees.

Last Thursday was the White House Patent Stakeholder Meeting, the purpose of which was to update interested parties on the status of government efforts to curb the ill effects of patent trolling.  I don’t know that I’d call myself a government hater because hello? NSA drones! I’m not really into hating.  But I am of the opinion that there’s not a whole lot we really want the Feds doing to fix this problem…free market capitalism is capable of handling the bullies at the bike rack.

Nevertheless, here’s what the Feds have proposed (apologies for the poor scan):


Of the ideas that they have put forth, one stuck out mostly because it was something that the patent examiner that I interviewed (here, here, and here) talked about.  Patent examiners need more education on fast-moving technological targets, as well as an education on the legal system and how the patents that they grant or don’t grant may possible be used.   Attacking the problem at the source is fundamental, and they seem to grasp that.

Also on the list was “crowdsourcing prior art” which was odd, given that there’s Article One Partners who’re already doing it and can the government really do it better than the private sector?  Methinks not.  It just didn’t strike me as an innovative idea, unless they’re talking about giving this option to the patent examiner pre-grant.  That would be cool.  Allow the examiners to post up claims from applications and see if the crowd can identify a precursor!

The White House continues to call for demand letter transparency, which was a subset of item #1 on their handout.  This of course struck me as the most useful of potential solutions, given that it provides exposure to the troll’s tactics and, you know, I built a tool to collect them. The whole point is to expose as many data points as possible surrounding these letters so that we can draw conclusions, figure out the big picture, and react accordingly.

The idea of demand letter transparency is gaining traction and I really hope that government attention will drive folks to add their information in.   There’s no risk, no exposure with That Patent Tool:  users are free to redact whatever fields they feel may be detrimental for other members to know.  It’s been suggested that as soon as a victim admits s/he’s been hit by a troll, there’s the potential that other trolls will also come calling.  But I have believed for a long time that even if we don’t know who a demand letter was sent to, there is tremendous value in getting whatever information we can about the sender and the actual demands being made.  This provides bargaining power for other victims and puts them more in control of their own fate.  There’s also a way to anonymously contribute to online discussions with other recipients…collaboration is good!

I have to say, I was pretty geeked out to participate in the event, and so was everyone else there.  It’s not often that people who deal with the subject of patents and litigation get invited to the prom. I caught more than one or two people snapping pics of the podium (you know who you are!) and generally fangirl/fanboy-ing around the room.  I may or may not have joined them.  Good times.


Front row, baby!


You know what they could’ve used at the meeting though?  Snacks.



Troll Talk 2/21, Washington DC Edition

There was this thing today at the White House complex, an update of sorts on what President Obama’s administration is doing to curb patent litigation abuse (Translation?  Slay the patent trolls).  Quite the ambitious efforts they’ve got going on, let’s hope it makes a dent in the problem.   Of course I’ll have something to say about it as soon as I get my act together.

But for now, if you attended and are still in the area or, for whatever reason, happen to live here on purpose (KIDDING!), then join me at the Starbucks at 1301 Pennsylvania Ave NW around 9:30.  This is fairly close to The Warner where my old firm’s offices are and that means I’ve been there before and can probably  hopefully totally find my way back there.  I like familiar territory, is what I’m saying.

And right here is where I would insert a Google map of the location if I had any clue how to do that but I totally don’t so you’re on your own.

Let’s recap:

Troll Talk
February 21, 2014
9:30 am
Starbuck’s Coffee
1301 Pennsylvania Ave NW

I’ll be the one with the boots on because Texas, y’all.




It’s Going Down, I’m Yelling “Timber”!

Never let it be said that I don’t have a flair for the dramatic, because I totally do.  (I also have a highly embarrassing story about that song, but we’ll get to that later.)

Have y’all read this yet, re: Intellectual Ventures cutting 5% of it’s workers?  I’m no business school graduate (oh, wait…yes I am) but laying off employees is not generally considered a sign of corporate health.  Last October, Intellectual Ventures had to stop buying patents to beat people up with because they were out of funds to do so.  Prior to that, it had been reported that they were not exactly wowing their investors with dividends.


Note: This is not Nathan Mhyrvold.

So what’s going on in Nathan’s world?  Are the kitchen fumes getting to him?

I think what’s happened is that with the increased noise about patent trolling, things aren’t going as easy for IV anymore.  It’s no longer enough to be a 400 lb gorilla and jump up and down insisting people pay you royalties or you’ll kneecap them.  No, the public narrative has made that path a little more difficult.  Plus, when you sue one of your original investors they probably tend not to like it and that certainly can’t be good for business.

Intellectual Ventures was founded in 2000.  Back then, the idea of a company investing in patents for the sole purpose of finding people who may potentially be infringing on it, or who operated in a space that was anywhere remotely close to a particular patent that they held, was just coming into vogue.  For a fairly long period of time, it worked, in part, I believe, because the approach was so novel that companies didn’t quite know how to react.  Couple that with corporate counsel, who tend to be extremely risk-averse, and most victims likely just said “pay the dude, make it go away”.


Not a corporate lawyer. Probably also not risk averse.

But starting a few years ago, lets say around 2007-8, people began to get all wise to that approach and even wrote about it online and tried to expose the trolls for their wretched behavior. And then all hell broke loose last year when President Obama scooped me and announced an initiative to reform the patents system and get a handle on these ne’er-do-wells.

If it were just that there were staff  cuts at IV, it would be one thing.  Companies sometimes need to trim the fat and eliminate duplicative positions and that can have nothing to do with their overall health.  It matters then, where within the company the layoffs are occurring:

IV has over 800 employees, according to its website, so a five percent reduction would impact at least 40 people. The bulk of the staff cuts involved attorneys and engineers who worked for IV’s large patent acquisition funds, three sources familiar with the company said.

IV also runs a laboratory which pursues inventions that the company itself can patent. That part of the business was not impacted by the job cuts, the sources said. Clouse declined to provide additional detail about the reductions.

  • Area of company that buys patents to sue people with:  cuts
  • Area of company that invents things to patent: no cuts

The (purported) location of the cuts speaks directly to the heart of their business model as a troll.

Like I said, “Timber!”



{Pitbull image found here.  Second Pitbull image via Rolling Stone, found here.}

True Story:  As a reading class assignment, my 7th grader had to pick song lyrics and add stanzas of his own creation using whatever literary technique they were currently studying, which if memory serves was metaphors and similes.

He submitted the lyrics to Timber, by Pitbull.  Have you read the lyrics to Timber, by Pitbull?  I have.  Now.

And that is why I will never be able to look his teacher in the eye as long as we both shall live, why I assume that pretty much any song that is popular nowadays will have equally offensive lyrics, and why OMG, I’ve discovered to my horror that I have become the people I hated when I was 13: my parents.