On The Definition Of A ‘Patent Troll’: Let’s Get Personal Once Again

Despite this review, I actually love Love Actually.  Mostly because of the wicked moves Hugh Grant pulls of to the Pointer Sisters, but also because of the way he defends Natalie, who’s ex evidently felt she was a little thick in the middle:

Oooooo, would we call her chubby?

The point is, of course, that he loves her and doesn’t see her that way, even though his staff and others totally do.

Hugh Grant Love Actually Dance

“I’ll take you down, I’ll take you down… where no one’s ever been before!”

 

I don’t love Jim Logan (no offense, but I’m a one man woman!) or Personal Audio.  But what I do feel is the need to break from my buddies over at EFF and examine once again if they, and by “they” I mean Jim, can truly and rightly be labeled a troll.

After suffering  through about 25 million ads sliding in and out at random locations (and the alliterative title), I was able to get through this article at The Economist.  I also read the comments, which is usually where the most fun is.  Also at Techdirt. If you don’t read the comments there then you’re missing 95% of the story.

The article talks about the most outspoken recipient of Mr. Logan’s attention, one Adam Carolla.  If I were Marc Maron, I would be a little irked that his fight is getting more play than mine, but whatever.  I don’t have a beef with Adam at all, and I’m sure he’s right irritated at having to deal with a lawsuit.  But let’s take a look at what we can really call a “troll”, because I don’t think the definition holds water in this situation.

From the article:

his company, ACE Broadcasting Network,being sued a year ago by Personal Audio, a non-practicing patentholding entity (a “patent troll”)

Hold on just a second.  I am at this very moment listening to an NPR podcast (how ironic) where they are playing a cassette tape of what they called the “very first podcast”.  If one of the main definitions of a patent troll is that they are non-practicing entities who don’t produce anything and simply sue over patents, and Jim Logan produced a cassette tape podcast, then how does that not immediately negate at least that part of the troll litmus test?

Now, Mr. Logan’s behavior should be analyzed because as I’ve said before and others have too, you have to look at a pattern of behavior to determine if someone is a troll.  It’s really not a hard and fast definition no matter how much my OCD brain would like for it to be.  The fact of the matter is that Personal Audio is indeed going around suing a lot of people.   Some have settled/taken a license and some are barking about it.  LOUDLY.  (Adam, I’m looking at you.)

While the suit does not detail a specific financial demand, Mr Carolla tells Babbage that he was asked for $3m, a sum he finds laughable based on his network’s revenue (which he does not disclose).

adamcarolla

Your season of Celebrity Apprentice was nuts. Aubrey O’Day? Really?

 

So, the suit didn’t detail a specific demand but Adam was asked for $3M.  That’s…inconsistent.  But the second half of that statement speaks to what I said in a previous post about this:

If Jim Logan had put it all out there in the demand letter and made a reasonable demand for a licensing fee by realizing that Adam Carolla, for all his funny, is not going to have the same resources as an Apple or Microsoft maybe he wouldn’t be so vilified?

I don’t know what Adam’s revenues are and I don’t know what Jim would think a reasonable license fee would be.  But I think that there has to be a somewhere in the middle on this kind of thing.  You cannot argue that Jim Logan didn’t try to monetize his patent with a product when it was issued, something troll are rightly accused of, even though the author of the article tries to do just that in both the above quote and this one:

First, Personal Audio fits the definition of a “patent troll”, or an entity formed for the basis of prosecuting patent lawsuits and licensing without manufacturing products or services.

You could, however, argue that he was ahead of his time, that the technology that would have made his idea more successful hadn’t gotten there yet.

This is why Personal Audio is now saying, “Look, I invented this.  I sunk $1.6* million of my own resources into trying to make it work but the timing wasn’t right.  Now it is, and I would like a cut of what you’re doing because it piggybacks off of what I was doing and oh by the way, I patented it and I have the right to exclude you from doing it unless you pay me a license.  That’s how patenting works.”

*I had incorrectly put a $4M figure here, thank you to my friend for the correction!

{Just to interject here, my beef is with the calling of Personal Audio a troll.  Arguments about prior art on the patent or whether or not the patent should ever have been issued are not the subject here.  Those are different and good arguments and I suppose we’ll see in May what the results of the IPR filed by EFF are.}

You know what would have helped both sides in this sort of thing?  A company like idealAsset, the “match.com for IP”.  If Jim had had a repository in which to place his IP asset, a searchable database with buyers and sellers hooked into it, he might not have had to go around suing.  And if Adam’s lawyers (and other podcaster’s lawyers) had a place where they could go looking to see if there was any IP surrounding what they were trying to do, they could have been matched up, gone on a date, and checked to see if there were any sparks flying that might lead to a permanent engagement or, dare I say it, marriage.

Maybe Jim did ask for decent terms in his original demand letters (if he sent them vs. just straight up suing).  I don’t know, he hasn’t entered any of them into That Patent Tool so we can see, and neither have any of the recipients.

All I know is this is one case where I feel it necessary to channel my inner Hugh Grant/Prime Minister and say:

“Ooooo, would we call him a troll?”

JustSayin_small_New

IPTT

{Adorable Hugh Grant image found here. All business-y image of Adam Carolla found here.}

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