Finally, A Diagnosis: Münchausen Syndrome by Proxy

Note:  This was drafted forever ago, and in reviewing old posts I came across it.  I liked it and, unsure of why I never actually published it way back when, hit publish on it yesterday.  I expected, and I have no earthly idea why because that’s not even remotely how the space/time continuum works, that it would publish under the date it was drafted, and slot nicely in between other relevant (at the time) posts.  Only not so much.

So, enjoy this blast from the past and pretend that it’s relevant to now.  

I new there was a word for this and if I couldn’t find it I was just going to have to make one up.  The definition of my word would be: “Companies who create a problem that they are the only ones who can solve.”  Patent trolls are not a whole lot unlike those door-to-door salesmen of 1950’s American folklore who knocked on the front door and when you opened it, they tossed in a handful of dirt and then tried to sell you the “only vacuum in the world” capable of cleaning it up.  Not surprisingly, people became a little leery of opening their door to strangers and so someone had to invent the “No Soliciting” sign and a whole new industry and set of laws was born.  Thank you, Kirby vacuum guys.

Let’s move this logic over the patent world where we have two recent examples of companies getting in bed with a troll to avoid…getting trolled.  Say what?  Exactly.

It’s no secret that Nest has built a really sexy thermostat.  Normally, I object strenuously to the use of the term “sexy” in business because blech and ewww??  Inappropriate.  But there’s just not another word that does justice to this piece of engineering:

Nest_Orange

This thing is awesome and would look particularly fetching in my front entryway, replacing the circa 1998 Honeywell electronic thermostat that hangs there now.  And therein lies the rub: Honeywell doesn’t like the new player on the block and so went after Nest for patent infringement.  What did Nest do?  Crawled right into the arms of Intellectual Ventures for some protection .  This is not wholly dissimilar from what Ditto had to do, selling out to IP Nav to get 1-800-Contacts off their back.

Oh, the irony.

Maybe this is exactly what the trolls had in mind to begin with?  First, you go after everyone and their dog for patent infringement, focusing in recent years on the young and weak like startups, and then when the problem has become so rampant in the industry, you offer a “solution” which is nothing more than protection from people like yourself.

As the title of this post suggests. we already have a name for this phenomenon:  Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy.  The reality of that particular psychiatric factitious disorder is far sadder because it involves children being harmed and as a Mom let me just tell you that stealing the idea of a girdle brings a microscopic portion of fury as compared to what you’d deal with if you hurt my kid.

But the theory is the same:  you’re “there for” people that are trying to get away from a problem that you created.

IPTT

Nest image found here.  (That is not an affiliate link, I don’t hawk thermostats.)

You Only Need A Defense If Someone’s After You

“Patent trolls” are feeling the heat in Washington — and they’re taking steps to defend themselves in D.C.

Long pilloried in Silicon Valley as a drain on innovation, such companies have seen their troubles mount with regulators and lawmakers.

First, “long pilloried”, as used in the quoted article, is one of my favorite phrases ever, right after “Behold, I have found the stash of chocolate!”

Second, Nathan Mhyrvold’s being sent to DC to “make the case that patents benefit inventors” isn’t being 100% truthful because Intellectual Venture’s isn’t known for it’s ability to tell the truth they’re a troll.  He’s being sent there because all of the bills before congress are about to put the hurt on his business model.   It looks like the Goodlatte bill is really stuck in his craw.  They’re not saying that, of course, they’re generalizing the problem in an effort to dilute their affect on it:

The current debate about patent trolls “seems to create uncertainty around patents generally,” said Russ Merbeth, chief policy counsel at Intellectual Ventures. “From our perspective, that’s going to have a long-term negative impact on American competitiveness.

What’s a “chief policy counsel”, anyway?  When I think of company policy, I think of things like deciding whether or not to put a note on the fridge that all leftovers will be tossed by Friday noon, or setting the precedent that, though it does frequently reach 500 degrees with 1000% humidity in the summer in the armpit of the US Houston, no, you cannot wear a tank top, capris, and flip flops to the office.  I suppose in this case, the chief policy officer’s job is to deflect the real issue and talk about how these bills will hurt American  competitiveness which IV is doing , what, exactly, to help?

{crickets}

Intellectual Ventures executives have taken to the company’s corporate blog to question the “myth of patent troll litigation” and have touted the company’s role in helping startups, including Nest, the “learning” thermostat maker that has access to nearly 40,000 IV patents.

Uh, guess not.  Nest came to you so they could fight off Honeywell in much the same way that Ditto went to IP Nav to fight off 1-800-Contacts.  Nice try.

Look, you don’t file paperwork and spend $165,000 to fight something you’re not worried about.  The fact that IV and others who are part of the Innovation Alliance are worried tells you you’re close to home.

As always, I’ll add my standard disclaimer that I think the market system can solve this problem quicker than the feds can (insert shameless plug for That Patent Tool here).  But I think there are some good things in the Goodlatte bill, and I know this because they’ve got IV on the run.

JustSayin_small_New

IPTT