I got the link for this article about patent trolls at the LA Times from the TechRights.org blog written by my friend and yours, Dr. Roy Schestowitz. I’ll freely admit that I don’t read the LA Times, online or otherwise, because TMZ. Like I need another source for what’s going on in LA LA land? Nevertheless, it appears that right there in the title is a problem and now that I’ve read the whole article? Well, I just can’t leave well enough alone or I wouldn’t be, you know, me.
Let’s address first things first:
One of Silicon Valley’s favorite hobbies is complaining endlessly about the rise of “patent trolls” and how they’re destroying innovation.
I thought Silicon Valley’s favorite hobbies were drinking coffee, comparing really good quality wines and fast cars, talking about start ups who are innovating despite innovation’s being destroyed, and vying to be on the next cover of Wired magazine. I would, evidently, be wrong about that.
Now that we’ve all
wasted spent the requisite 25 minutes reading the government’s study that tells what we already knew, everyone’s trying to parse it out to mean what they want it to mean (and I include myself in that category because I have abandonment issues and don’t like to be left out). Isn’t that how it’s done? But I think the LA Times misses the mark here.
There’s this little rule that I learned about when I was born because my family talked about nothing but business and politics when I was growing up so I pretty much had command of the laws of supply and demand by the 3rd grade, in addition to memorizing the mantra “buy low, sell high”. They taught us the 80/20 rule thusly: 80% of the work in any organization is done by 20% of the people. And they also taught me that this percentage split applies almost universally across all of life:
- 80% of the cereal in the box will be eaten by 20% of the people in the home
- 80% of the dog’s poop will be deposited in 20% of the yard
- 80% of your child’s most expensive toys will be played with only 20% of the time
And on and on. But what you realize as you get older and gain more experience in life, is that what’s in that 20% is what really matters. So while this quote may be true:
Yes, NPEs appear to be contributing to a rise in patent litigation. But overall, NPEs account for only 20% of patent litigation, according to the report.
You have to look at what that 20% is costing in terms of actual dollars, lost productivity, and lost consumer options as start up after start up is targeted and faces shuttering their business rather than pay to fight a troll. Whether or not you believe the $29 billion dollar number, it cannot be argued that even though “only 20%” of patent litigation is from trolls, it’s not having an impact.
The article on the whole makes the same good points that most of the others have:
- Patent quality matters. Shout out to Article One Partners for the awesome company tag line!
- Software patents in particular are problematic
- Legislation isn’t likely to resolve any of the real issues derived from patent trolling
It just seems disingenuous to say that since the percentage of patent litigation brought by patent trolls is only 20% of the total, it’s not really a problem.
Chris O’Brien? I guess we just disagree on that.