Dear Companies That I Think Are Infringing: Don’t Make Me Go Thug! Love, IP Nav

There’s something just so endearing about a grown man using language normally reserved for the youngsters of a generation.  Personality, as we know from the Monsanto v. Bowman seed stealing case, matters and that is no more apparent than in this article in the New York Times about Erich Spangangberg, he of IP Nav um…fame?  Notoriety? Infamy?  You pick.

Herein lies the rub:

“Erich saved our bacon,” said Steve Dodd, a patent holder with a client company called Parallel Iron. “We were more than $1 million in debt and I was getting ready to file for bankruptcy.”

I have no intimate knowledge of what Parallel Iron does or what Steve Dodd’s patent is for so I’m going to just go right ahead and speak out of turn by saying that if you’re having to file for bankruptcy, might there be a reason beyond “I haven’t monetized my IP correctly?”  Something along the lines of tough competition, a failed new product release, a global recession, I hired my sister to do my books and she stole me blind…you know, things like that?  And really, Steve, how much of what Erich got in the patent shakedown licensing that he did for you did you get to keep?  It’s been said that

only about $6 billion of that money wound up in the hands of inventors,” said James Bessen, a co-author of the study and a professor at the Boston University School of Law.

I know that study has come under question, by me as well as few others, but if the numbers are in fact to be believed, then 6 billion out of the 23 billion that was spent on these lawsuits is {pulls up calculater} is 20.68%.  So all those inventors that companies like IP Nav are claiming to help are getting roughly 21 cents on the dollar.  Well, that seems fair.  I realize that Parallel Iron managed to come out of their negotiations with 42.5% of any settlement revenue so they’re beating the average.  But that’s still less than 50%, which tells me what we all already know:  IP Nav and their ilk have no true interest in helping the small inventor, they have an interest in helping their own bottom line, and the bottom line on their bottom line is this:  “…[they are] profiteering from a flawed and creaky legal system.”

This little nugget was fascinating:

He stands about 5-foot-6 and was bullied as a child because of his height. He always fought back, he says, and he usually lost; his nose has been broken by an assortment of fists. This has given him a lifelong hatred of bullies, which explains, he says, why he wound up in a job where he often stands with a small company assailing a larger one.

The irony just drips off that last sentence no?  Maybe the reason his phone is “ringing with new business” despite the public humiliation that should have accompanied a couple of Judge’s smackdowns (which you can read about in the link to the NY Times article) is because these inventors seeking his services were also bullied as children, and are now performing some sort of sick and twisted retaliation in the form of being a bully-by-proxy and hiring Spangenberg.  I don’t fully understand the psychology of bullying, but something weird is going on here.  Maybe I should send Erich my therapist’s number.  If I had one, I mean…

“Love, fear or greed,” he says, citing the key human motivations that are his leverage when he approaches any company. “I always start with love.”

That usually means an assertion letter, which may not sound very loving to recipients. In 2011, a judge in Wisconsin — not the one who mauled him — quoted from an IPNav assertion letter that included this sentence: “We are focused on addressing these issues without the need for costly and protracted litigation.”

I’m no expert on love, but I’m pretty sure that veiled threats is not one of the forms it takes.  Call me crazy, but it probably also doesn’t entail “going thug” on people.  IP Nav isn’t using love here, they’re being a bully.  The only way you can make a bully stop is to take away his power by standing up to him, like Rackspace and Neiman Marcus and NewEgg and others are starting to do.

There’s no app for that, but here’s a few visuals to get you all fired up again!

Image courtesy of the Braveheart movie people.  I didn't take it, am not claiming to have.

Image courtesy of the Braveheart movie people. I didn’t take it, am not claiming to have.

Superheroes

Rackspace to the left of trolls, Neiman Marcus to the right!

I don’t care how much money Mr. Spangenberg has or how many cars he has or where he lives.  I care about what he’s doing, and that it’s wrong.

Just sayin’,

IPTT

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Vermont’s AG Is The Patent World’s Luke Skywalker

And the cast of characters grows.

So by now we’ve all heard about the this story, wherein the Attorney General of the great state of Vermont has gone after the scanner dudes:

MPHJ and its principals may have gone too far. They’re now the subject of a government lawsuit targeting patent trolling—the first ever such case. Vermont Attorney General William Sorrell has filed suit in his home state, saying that MPHJ is violating Vermont consumer-protection laws.

William Sorrell, lightsaber in hand (and how ironic is that because lightsabers use light and scanners use light so it’s pretty much exactly the same thing, is what I’m saying), has gone on a troll hunt.

Luke Skywalker, Star Wars Hero

I didn’t take this picture.
Disney now owns it.
George Lucas? I hope you didn’t make a big mistake.

In just the same way that our farm boy hero jumped on the rebellion bandwagon to try and take down Lord Darth Vader, that empty shell of a man machine who was nothing more than a puppet for Emperor Palpatine,  Mr. Sorrell has lept into the patent fray to try and take down the other “most notorious troll” in the  game.  And boy, did he pick a winner.  The cast of characters in this party?  Don’t that beat all.

mac-rust

Jay Mac Rust, from 2006 magazine cover of Super Lawyers Texas “Rising Stars.”

There’s a saying in Texas that I think best suits this image:  “All hat, no cattle.”  Ahem.  Read all about them folks here in the Arstechnica write up by Joe Mullin.

I don’t know what’s in the water in Vermont, but evidently they grow some serious investigative skills up there:

But Vermont investigators were able to get additional information not available to defense lawyers (or journalists). For instance, they discovered that there were forty different shell companies sending out the letters, all under the control of MPHJ.

Giddyup.  Forty different shell companies?  What’re you trying to do, MPHJ, compete with Intellectual Ventures?  You’ve got a long, long, long, long, long  way to go, but I admire your efforts so far.

The thing is, the actual merits of the case (they’re going for violation of consumer protection laws) don’t really matter.  What really matters is that Vermont is bringing the party to the trolls, going on the offense.   And they’re doing it on two fronts:  this lawsuit as well as a new bill that, if made law, will allow for penalties for “bad faith” lawsuits.  Like that doesn’t cover 99.9% of all patent litigation, am I right?

Joining the ranks of the Braveheart guy, Vermont is tackling this issue head on.  Which of course makes them a de facto Patent Superhero:

Superheroes

This one I can claim. Totally photoshopped this bad boy.

Awwwww  yeah, baby!!!

Just sayin’,

IPTT