I Know Who The Pixelated-Faced Troll Victim Is (Probably)

Do you get into debates on LinkedIn?  I kinda do, but then again I tend to get into debates everywhere I go.  You should see me at the grocery store, what with the whole “paper or plastic” nonsense.  Seriously?  JUST.GIVE.ME.A.BAG.

Anyway, this morning my frienemy Paul Morinville posted a link to a story about a man who’s company was shut down by a patent troll, despite not believing that patent trolls exist.  He did a cursory search and found that the individual in the article didn’t even own a patent (!) and therefore could not have been sued for it (!!) which means he is obviously a liar and his pants are certainly aflame (!!!). Not being one to take anyone’s Paul’s word for anything it, I did a little searching of my own and would you believe it?  I came up with a completely different result.

I’ll pause while you recover from that revelation.

The article that was posted was this one, about a man named David Bloom.  He co-founded a technology start up called Ordrx (probably pronounced “Order X”, and not “OR-drix”, like I originally said it in my head) and the software centered around the restaurant business and the electronic ordering process.  Or something like that.

It’s not relevant anymore because he’s out of business on account of patent trolls. What was so interesting is that those who think patent trolls aren’t a problem immediately dismissed this man’s case because he didn’t have one.  There was no lawsuit filed, and that meant “Hey, dude, what’re you barking about?  Like, you didn’t even get sued, maaaan!  Why don’t you grow up and quit whining already?”

banner big lebowski copy

Update, 5:57 pm CDT:  Of course there was a lawsuit, I missed that when I read the article the first time.  While some still wish to believe there weren’t, it is clear that OrdrX (dba Ordr In) was sued in the S. District of California, by the patent-holder’s own admission in a press release because why not brag about being a troll?  So while I was wrong to say that David Bloom didn’t say he was sued, Paul, et al were wrong to say that he wasn’t sued.  But for different reasons.  I think?  Anyway, he was sued just like he said he was.

Further, Paul and his minions were all “I can’t even find a patent!”  Really?  Because I did, and it took all of three searches.  I found this link on the Application Developer’s Alliance which led me to this link on something called trollfighters.com (note to self: that would have been a good domain to go ahead and buy) where it appears that Mr. Brown is, in fact, the pixel-headed CEO who was so worried about other companies trying to troll him that he refused to even show his face.

Not only couldn’t they find the patent that I found, they claimed the whole thing was a lie because he said he got sued (he never said that he totally said that) and he didn’t get actually sued (again, he never said that OK fine, he did say he was hit with a “frivolous lawsuit”) because if he got sued then where’s the lawsuit????

What actually happened, for those of us who read the article, was that he was forced out of business on account of the threat of a suit from a patent troll. Patent litigation defense costs a lot of money.  How much will always be in dispute, but it doesn’t matter because when you’re starting your own company, anything not related to your business that costs you more than $50 is “a lot”.  Patent infringement litigation defense usually costs more than $50.  I feel very safe in asserting that fact.

The dissenters also claimed that if a (non-existent) patent troll was coming after them and they were Google-backed, why wouldn’t Teh Googs just swoop in and lay waste to the (non-existent) troll?  Yeah, it doesn’t work that way.  First of all, I don’t think they were Google-backed so much as they participated in a start-up contest that was sponsored by Google.  Not quite the same thing, even in the made-up land where Paul lives and the trolls don’t exist.

Second of all, Google would rather shutter the venture than try and fend off the lawsuit, unless the Ordrx software were already pulling in mountains of money.  It’s the only sensible thing to do unless you’re a badass like Lee Cheng or Drew Curtis or Todd Moore and make the call to fight the good fight every time someone brings it to you. What kills me is the speed with which the “trolls don’t exist” camp went after David Bloom without even a quick search.  All they did was look for a patent in his name and a lawsuit, both of which couldn’t be found.

What’s so funny is, finding out the details didn’t even take me that long, I did it while on hold waiting for an online class to start because multitasking is my specialty. I’m glad I did though, because it solved an age-old mystery for me, which is “who was that pixelated man?”

DavidBloom_PixelGuy_new

Tell me I’m right, David.

JustSayin_small_New

IPTT

Side note:  In the Twitter exchange that followed the LinkedIn debate, it was mentioned that I may be a paid shill for lobbying groups.  If nothing else is clear, let it this be: I write this blog for me and for those who are taken advantage of by the black hat, bad-guy, patent-wielding thugs who go after people for infringement just because they can.  I do not take anything from anyone for it.  Not a single penny, from a single person.  #independent

{Big Lebowski image found here. Pixelated image found here. David Bloom image found here.}

Advertisements

An Open Letter To Martha Stewart And Eugene Kaspersky Re: Lodsys

Dear Mr. Kaspersky and Ms. Stewart,

You almost want to feel sorry for them, don’t you?  I mean, how bloodied and beat up are these Lodsys cats these days anyway, am I right?  From Joe Mullin over at Ars, we have the tale of the chicken:

Lodsys decided over the weekend to dismiss its case against Kaspersky with prejudice. Instead of facing a jury, Lodsys will slink away instead. It was an unconditional surrender.

Hello!

Even better, I woke up this morning to the whole story in your own words, Mr. Kaspersky, my favorites of which were:

The enemy is defeated, demoralized, and on the run! Churchill was right: “Never give up!” We’ve followed his advice in our fight against a particular troll. As a result the troll gave up and ran away with nothing and its tail between its legs.

tail_between_legs_Kaspersky

Defeated.  Demoralized.  On the run.

Hello!  Again!  Although I must take issue with the second adjective because how can you be “de”moralized when you have no morals to begin with, eh trolls?  But hey, I’ll forgive you that because how awesome is that picture of your team and also?  I hope you saved at least one bottle of Chivas to send to Martha.

From the “what-I’ve-been-saying-all-along” department (with acknowledgement to Techdirt), we see that Kaspersky Lab, like Todd Moore at TMSoft before you, has simply refused to roll over for the likes of these “vermin”.  That’s the only way to send a message that the bullies can’t have your lunch money, folks!

What I’m hoping these recent victories against Lodtellectual Venturesys* don’t mean is that you’ll back down, Ms. Stewart.  I watched every episode of The Apprentice: Martha Stewart and if memory serves (and it does), you don’t seem the type.  Nevertheless, there’s always the danger that, when the bully backs off one or two victims, the posse that’s been assembled to meet him at the bike racks the next afternoon and give him what-for will decide he doesn’t need it.

Rest assured, Lodsys needs and deserves the ass-whoopin’.

You’ve gone for the jugular here by filing for Declaratory Judgement on non-infringement and invalidity.  As we say in Texas, put a bullet in it.  Knock out this meager family of four piddly patents and be the hero to all the companies still in Lodsys’ path!  Don’t settle out because they’re down, go right ahead and kick ’em, no?  Crack open the can, baby!!

whoopass

I hate to say the troll tide is turning because there’s still a lot of bad going on out there.  But if we (and by “we” I mean “you”) see this one through, it’ll take a whole lotta steam out of the engine.

Just sayin’,

IPTT

*Intellectual Ventures + Lodsys = Lodtellectual Venturesys.  Try and follow along, people.

{Happless coyote image found here. Can of whoop-ass image found here, along with some decent advice.}

MythBusters: Patent (Troll) Litigation Explosion Edition

It’s always fun when something starts to get national attention after some of us (*cough* *cough*) have been banging the drum on that same issue for, oh, 12 years now.  Detractors and proponents seem to come out of the woodwork, citing studies and statistics as if any of it really means anything.  Adam Mossoff, he of the claim that there really isn’t $29 Billion in costs associated with patent trolling because how could there be, when the whole shebang is myth anyway, is at it again.  Hi Adam, long time, no blog post refuting pretty much everything you’ve said!  Hugs!

Mr. Mossoff would have us believe that the whole increase in patent troll litigation is a myth.  I was right there with him until the second sentence.  OK, ok, that’s mean.  The second paragraph, where he waxes poetic about the number of patents being issued because why? I’m not sure, and this quote doesn’t help:

A simple comparison to population growth, especially taking into account the explosive growth in the innovation industries in the past several decades, could as easily justify the claim that we haven’t got enough patents issuing today.)

Why would we compare the number of patents to the number of people?  Is there some magic number of patents per person that is right and  good for society and another number that isnt’?  I don’t get this.  I mean, yes, the number of patents would theoretically increase the number of potential patent infringement lawsuits in much the same way that number of cars on the road at rush hour increases the number of potential drivers I have to flip off honk at merge with.  But beyond that, huh?

Adam's Nirvana

An infographic of the mythical but precisely perfect mix of patents to population.

Moving along:

Unfortunately, the mythical claims about a “patent litigation explosion” have shifted in recent months (perhaps because the original assertion was untenable).  Now the assertion is that there has been an “explosion” in lawsuits brought by patent licensing companies.

Instead of just saying that patent litigation has exploded because that would be wrong, we are now hearing people say that there’s an explosion in patent litigation brought by trolls.  That feels an awful lot like a semantic red herring, but we’ll go with it for now.

This, however, is just poppycock:

’ll note for the record here that patent licensing companies are often referred to today by the undefined and nonobjective rhetorical epithet of “patent troll.”

You may claim that the terms used to negatively refer to patent licensing companies are complicated and don’t always apply across the board, or that they are at times ill-defined.  But you can’t claim that terms are undefined because hello?  I defined them.  Also, “rhetorical epithet”?  Nicely done.  Excellent wordsmithing there, 10 points in your favor!

I’m not going to cut and paste the next quote because it’s long I’m lazy but the gist of it is that with the America Invents Act, of course the number of patent litigation suits is going to go up.  Joinder clause, anyone?  We knew that, but I don’t think you can say that’s the whole reason that the numbers are higher because wait…didn’t you say the numbers weren’t higher?  That increased patent litigation is a myth?  Is that circular logic, is that why I’m getting dizzy?  “The numbers are not higher but when they are higher, it’s because of the AIA.”  Please step away from the merry-go-round, my friend.

MerryGoRound

If you didn’t play on one of these growing up, two things:
1. I hate you for being younger than me, and 2. You *totally* missed out.

The article also takes aim at “secret data” spouted by the likes of RPX and Patent Freedom, with regard to litigation statistics.  I really hope those guys are wearing their flak jackets, that’s a serious BOOM there.  I know the RPX folks are because they’re in San Francisco and OMG, how is it possible that you have to wear a fleece in July in that town?  A flak jacket is not heavyweight enough, I don’t think.  Still, he makes a valid point which is who’s funding their data collection efforts and what stake do they have in the outcome being very high?

The thing is, lawsuits are a matter of public record.  If you don’t trust the data from those sources, then go to  Lex Machina if you feel they are not funded by people with a vested interest, or commission a study of your own!  That’d work, no?  But it’s not quite fair to just shoot the messenger.

As has been discussed on this very blog in the past and right there in the Backgrounder link, it’s not a secret that the small-ish inventor in this country can have trouble monetizing their patent, especially in larger technological sectors.  Patent licensing companies do serve an unfilled need in the economy and no one I don’t think would argue that they don’t so yeah, we get that.  Likewise, we get that you don’t have to make a product to be considered a valid owner of a patent.  Over on IP Watchdog, Steve Moore makes a big “to do” about this.  Again, we get it.  And in fact, that’s one reason that the term NPE is not the same as the term Patent Troll.   All patent trolls are NPE’s, but not all NPE’s are patent trolls.

What articles like this do though, is negate that there really is a problem with companies going after business for the sole purpose of extracting licensing fees over patents that are either old and worthless or that the targets are not infringing on.  Those are the trolls we’re after, and they make up a significant portion of the increase in patent litigation in recent years.  If you believe there’s been an increase, I mean.

It’s fair to question statistics and the motives of those behind them.  It’s fair to criticize people who only want legislative relief of the problem in the form of more laws from Congress because they (incorrectly, in my view) believe that that is the only way out of the problem, or even a good way out.

But you can’t just throw the baby out with the bathwater and say that because a few statistics are misquoted or unfounded or skewed by the companies putting them out that there isn’t really a problem.  All you need to do to verify that there is is to ask the Dittos and the Farks and the TMSofts.

They’ll tell you that, increase in patent litigation or no, there IS a problem.

JustSayin_small

IPTT

{Merry go round image found here: http://www.webanswers.com/for-fun/what-was-your-favorite-playground-equipment-in-elementary-school-f1f9f9}

Lodsys Takes One On The Chin, Pwned By Pro Bono Lawyers

Well well well, what have we here?   I haven’t looked yet for can’t find the name of the law firm that handled the case but wouldn’t you love to shake their hand, give ’em a big ol’ Texas Hug and say “Atta Boy!”?

I totally would.  First round of margaritas is on me!!

Background added:  Lodsys is a shell of Intellectual Ventures company that is going after app developers for using in-app purchases because they say they have a patent on that, and are demanding that developers rustle up some licensing fees but quick.  One app developer fought back with the help of some pro bono attorneys who gave up a $200k paycheck to help.  They brought Lodsys to its knees in a settlement that ended up putting money in the hands of a charitable organization.  Which is winning on every.single.front.

Forbes has their take on the story in this article, and I want to bring a few things to light, namely his main point, if I may be so bold as to disagree.  Ahem.

And the answer to killing the trolls while still allowing the legitimate patent assertion entities to flourish is to level that legal and financial playing field. Something that could be done very simply.

Actually, I do agree that it can be done simply, but not using his tactic, which is as follows:

Just move to loser pays all legal fees in patent cases.

That sounds super terrific on the surface, but the way the shell game works is that these entities who are doing the suing are playing funny money.  You can’t get blood out of a turnip, as my grandfather used to say.  Do you think that if a Lodsys/Intellectual Ventures (because let’s just call a quacking duck a quacking duck here, they’re one and same) does lose that they’ll pony up the fees?

I don’t think so.

I think they’ll do what they do best:  lie, cheat, hide, be nefarious, all of those things.  They’re going to make it all go *POOF*, all of their assets and bank accounts.  Besides which, not spending the money on a defense up front is always preferable to trying to get it back afterwards.  Once it’s out of your hands, money is really tough to get back under any circumstances.  (Don’t ask me how I know that because I totally do not have a bag of clothes in my closet that don’t fit/didn’t match/need to go back to the store for some reason but I haven’t made the time to take them. )

Same thing here: the money’s spent on the suit up front: whether or not the loser is required to pay, and really it should be called “loser pays back“, that money’s already left the defendant’s coffers. If nothing else, you lose the interest so supposing you do get it back, you’re still out the time value of money. You’re welcome for showing off the mad math skillz you taught me in 4th grade, Mrs. Unger.

I think a better approach, and I’ve said this many times, is a sort of crowd funding for these suits. Bring people together who have a vested interest in seeing this problem go away, and give them a place to put some funds.  I recently learned of DefenseMob, whose purpose is to crowdfund patent defense, which can include patent litigation.  It can also be used to fund things like re-exam, or inter partes review (IPR) requests which is how Rackspace is going after IP Nav.  I’m no genius, but isn’t that exactly what we need?  The beauty of it is that it allows the little guys a chance, and that’s who the trolls are increasingly going after because they tend to fight the least.  If there was a way to get the money fronted, even if it’s just a portion of it, you have to believe that more of them would fight, no?

This type of solution needs no government intervention.  It needs no legislation, no persuading of judges, no permission from anyone.  All it needs is people willing to solve the problem collaboratively using any amount of funds they’re willing to let go of for a common good.

And if that common good means someone like Nathan, who wants so terribly bad to be the next Cooking Channel celebrity, goes down in a blaze of glory like his henchmen Lodsys just did, doesn’t it make you want to do it even more?

mhyrvold_guy fieri mesh

Nathan Mhyrvold/Guy Fieri mashup.
In case that wasn’t obvious.

The answer is yes, Yes it does.

JustSayin_small

IPTT

{Guy image found here: http://theonefeather.com/2011/03/guy-fieri-bringing-his-food-tour-to-harrah%E2%80%99s-cherokee/  Nathan image found here: http://www.intellectualventures.com/index.php/about/leadership/nathan-myhrvold}