Probably everyone else has heard of Cory Doctorow, but I hadn’t until I came across a piece that was so brilliant (in large part because he agrees with me, of course) that I had to read it several times and then find a copy of the movie so I could watch it. His article is about The Magnificent Seven business model and how it applies to patent trolls (and copyright trolls too, but we’ll leave those to Ali.)
I’ve banged the drum loudly for almost three years now that one surefire way to beat the trolls is to use collective action, preferably prior to litigation. There are a number of offerings that help once you’ve been sued (IP litigation insurance, RPX’s Collaborative Defense™), but by then the money’s already flowing in the wrong direction, which is to say out of your bank account and into to some attorney’s. A little too late in the game if you ask me.
That’s one reason I and others have put up tools to collect patent demand letters. As Cory states in his article:
Since the victims are spread out and don’t know each other, it’s hard to fight back together.
That’s what the trolls count on. But what if there was a place to input information about which trolls are asking for how much regarding which patents before they actually sue? Hello? We have that here (MINE!) and here (THEIRS!). Cory’s exactly right when he says:
the relatively small profits from being a jerk are concentrated, the much larger effects are diffused, which means that the jerks can afford better lawyers and lobbyists than any one of their victims.
But what if those victims got together? What if they created a fund for defense, like I suggested in this prior blog post:
In other words, if that’s too subtle for you, why don’t you guys do the same thing? Coordinate a response. It looks like some of you did in this case by filing an amicus brief or two, but seriously? That all you got?
Open up your wallets, find a bank somewhere (I know! I know! Make it Switzerland, since you’re already there!), get an account, and FUND A MASS DEFENSE. The only thing evil people understand are lawyers, guns, and money. You have two out of the three, and that ain’t bad. In fact, it’s enough. Get some lawyers and some money, and you won’t even need the guns.
This really, truly isn’t rocket science.
Cory’s saying the same thing, only he suggests a Kickstarter campaign. There’s another option, Defense Mob, that is getting off the ground as well. There’s a particular brilliance to the way he puts it that you have to read and read until you fully ingest it and let it spur you to action:
Once a troll is worried about a pushback from his victims, he’ll need to raise a war-chest, and since the only thing a troll makes is lawsuits, he’ll start sending more threats. Those threats will attract more people to the kickstarter [or other collaboration effort], raising its profile and its search-rank. The more the troll wriggles, the more stuck he becomes.
DING DING DING, we have a winner, folks.
This is exactly what demand letter registries are all about. Getting the word out and forcing the trolls’ filthy, dirty, long-fingernailed little hands. And actually, if users will collaborate and talk to one another about what’s going on, you may not need a war chest after all. All you really need is information. A collection of data that you can query and find out who else is on the trolls’ hit list. Once you do that, you can talk to one another and then all of the victims can simply refuse to play the game.
If every person that a troll sends a demand letter to says “NO”, how’s that going to play out? They’re going to take it to the next level and sue everyone they sent a demand letter to? OK, they might. But now go back and re-read Cory’s quote:
The more the troll wriggles, the more stuck he becomes.
I read this article back in November and it still excites me today because
I lead a very boring life I love a good plan to take down the bad guys and I’ve advocated doing this since day one. If I had any smarts at all I’d have tagged all the relevant posts with something like “collaboration idea” and link to them here, but alas, you’ll have to take my word for it.
You want to rid the patent landscape of bottom-feeder trolls? Then round up your posse, seek out and find your Magnificent Seven, then take the banditos out.