…And For Our Next Patent, A Portal To Narnia!

Twitter debates are my favorite, and I fell sideways into one last week, as opposed to starting one jumping in with both feet like I normally do.   It began with a simple tweet from Mike Masnick (of TechDirt):

OriginalTweet_Thoth

It was in reference to a long, tall, beast of a tube that will put space craft and their inhabitants closer to orbit before launch, being built by a company named Thoth.  Thoth is a Canadian company whose website is not thoth.com, but thothx.com.  Interesting, because that’s kind of like the suffix of another space company.

IP Troll Tracker

Anyway, all I did (she said innocently, while batting her eyes) is retweet it which caught the attention of my colleague Nick Gross.  The reply tweets that ensued are referenced below, and as you can see it escalated quickly:

ReplyTweets_Thoth

I’ll not post the rest of the exchange because male posturing ensued and we all know that means denigrating each other’s…colleges.  There was jail time mentioned, federal crimes, it got kinda ugly and all over what?  The fact that companies sometimes patent stuff they never intend to build.

Why might a company do that, you ask?  Well, there’s the option that Intellectual Ventures takes, which is to patent stuff so they can go sue people.  I wondered to myself if that’s what Thoth had in mind…maybe they should patent their technology because Space Tube Elevator Lift Kit technology is sure to be a hot thing these days and they had better protect their “innovation” lest someone beat them to the atmosphere.

I expected to come up with a goose egg when I search for competition on this particular space race, but low and behold it seems that building a a giant corrugated tube up to the sky is, indeed, a “thing”, as this Kickstarter intimates.  Then there’s this page, which is straight out of 1990, but talks nonetheless about a space elevator.  There were a few others, enough to make me think that maybe this was a defensive patenting move.

Maybe it’s a licensing play?  Patent the technology, never intending to build such an unwieldy beast, and just license it to others to fund your existing products (none of which, by the way, are on anywhere near this scale)?

The point of the argument on Twitter was that Thoth did indeed secure funding to build, though strangely the article linked by @JNGross only talks about how much it would cost, not the source of the money, so that meant that they weren’t just another company patenting something for the other reasons I listed above. And OK, you have a point there, but seriously?  You’re going to blow someone else’s $5-10 Billion on a 30% reduction in rocket fuel costs and possible gains in efficiency?

I’m not a rocket scientist because I didn’t go to CalTech or MIT, but good golly, Miss Molly…that’s a pretty low ROI.

JustSayin_small_New

IPTT

{Church lady meme found here, and obviously ©SNL}

The Kind Of Behavior That Only Cousins In Kentucky Should Get Away With

I would apologize to Kentuckians but, as I’ve mentioned before, I lived there for a time during my formative years so I’m allowed to pick on my one-time home state.  Also?  Drew Curtis, Patent Troll Slayer, for Governor.  Vote, y’all.

In another alarming chapter of the “saved from a troll by a troll” play book, Jump Rope misses the rope itself and jumps straight into bed with Erich Spangenberg.  Like Ditto before him, Mr. Braxton of Jump Rope found himself in the unfortunate position of having to take investment money from one of the founders of the business model that put his company in jeopardy to begin with.

It seems a little “Munchausen by proxy”-ish to create a problem and then try to rescue people from it, Erich.  It’s like marrying your cousin, which is only allowed, if I’m not mistaken, in Kentucky.

IP Troll Tracker

In reading a little more background to the story, it looks a lot like personality comes into play here, on the Smart Options side (Smart Options is the company that sued Mr. Braxton and Jump Rope).  It looks to me like what you have is a very small man, in mind if not in physical stature, who didn’t like that Braxton wouldn’t play.

“It’s not clear-cut whether our patents cover what Peter Braxton is doing,” [the attorney for Smart Options] said. “What’s clear-cut is that he chose to say ‘no’ to more than half a dozen reasonable relationships we laid out for him.”

First of all, “reasonable” is in the eye of the beholder so don’t make it out like you’re being generous.  Secondarily, as Braxton pointed out,

But why should Mr. Braxton strike any deal with Smart Options, given that a judge had found that his software didn’t infringe its patent?

(Emphasis mine.)  The answer is because, as we’ve seen over and over again with patent trolls, they want you to pay up (or just disappear, in another sick and twisted plot theme I’ll be exploring in the coming weeks) and won’t stop harassing you until you do.

I wonder what happens in a person’s life as children that they feel the need to throw their weight around as adults? What galls me the most is this white hat status that the likes of IP Nav are trying to throw around.

 

Here he comes to save the daaaayyy!!

Here he comes to save the daaaayyy!!

Whatever.  It’s opportunistic and you know it.  As Mike Masnick at TechDirt puts it:

The story tries to play this out like a “patent troll done good,” but it’s horrifying. It’s one patent troll beating up on a startup, and then allowing a second one to come in and vulture up the leftovers. It’s certainly not good for innovation in any way.

I feel for Mr. Braxton and for Kate Endress of Ditto who were so backed into a corner that they had to choose from two really bad options:  shutter the company or deal with the devil.

I’m not as convinced as Mike is that patent reform at the national level will take care of the problem without creating a bigger mess down the road.  But there has to be a better way than what just happened here.

JustSayin_small_New

IPTT

{Mullet-headed man meme found here.  Mighty Mouse image found, inexplicably, here. Base for Mighty Mouse/Spangenberg morph found here.}