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