Fuck You, Patent Trolls

This type of shit just boils my blood. From GigaOm:
Just days after Hipmunk’s June funding announcement, a company called i2z Technology LLC told the travel start-up that it has to buy a license for a 1994 patent that covers a method for displaying data in multiple computer windows. Despite its high-tech sounding name, i2z is simply a Texas shell company run by a California lawyer that is targeting internet and travel companies including Kayak, Google, Yelp and Microsoft. Under i2z’s business model, known as patent trolling, firms that don’t make anything collect patents in order to extract licensing settlements from companies that do.
Hipmunk is just the latest target of a shell corporation whose only purpose is to sue innovative companies. Lodsys did the same thing to small iOS developers, and even big companies like Apple aren’t immune. Developing an awesome technology and defending it is great, as is acquiring patents to protect yourself from a patent lawsuit (like what Facebook did when Yahoo sued it). But creating a company for the sole purpose of snagging patents and suing other companies? Those people don’t even deserve to practice law. They’re the scum of the earth. We need to find a way to enact some real patent reform and end this despicable practice. This is why the patent crisis is inevitable. (Pardon my French, these people just piss me off.) Image courtesy of Flickr, lintmachine
  • Raphael Queiroz

    nice article, Ben.

    cheers from a startup owner in Brazil, whose waiting for a problem like that to knock on my door someday.

  • http://www.facebook.com/philip.holdsworth Philip Holdsworth

    I’m coming from a point of almost complete ignorance here, but it’s alway baffled me that we treat patent code like the copyright on the written word, as if copying a code was akin to plagiarism. In my mind, code is written to achieve a certain purpose, and it is the function, not the code that is what needs protecting. I keep thinking back to the analogy used in the Social Network of a chair. Sure, the first person to come up with a design for a chair that allows someone to sit down would be due recompense from anyone that used the same design to charge people to achieve the same purpose, but as soon as you have two, or three of a half million different designs that achieve the same purpose, the protection for a design that helps achieve a function that can be achieved a million other ways doesn’t need protection. No one owns the function of sitting, just like no one owns the function of displaying data in multiple browser windows just the method of getting there.

    Patents don’t just provide incentive for people to innovate some original function, they also provide incentive to come up with multiple ways to achieve any particular function, like touch-screens for example, but at a certain point, the value of the unique process is lost when there are multiple ways to achieve the exact same function. All this to say, maybe there should be an invalidation point, after a certain number of codes exists that achieve the exact same function.

  • http://widefide.com Anil

    Apple is the biggest patent troll on earth.

    • Beauroberts

      Ah…no. Apple has certainly been litigious at times in defending its patents and at times you could make the argument that they have been too aggressive. But to call Apple a patent troll is just bull$#1^. There is a huge difference between a company like Apple that spends billions of dollars on R&D, creates and markets its own products, and has the fiduciary responsibility of a public company to protect its shareholders assets and interests, and a private company setup by financiers with the sole business model of buying patents and monetizing them by suing other companies. And if you look at Apple’s history of being an innovator, but being blatently copied by competitors, can you blame them for trying to protect themselves. Apple is by no means perfect, but your statement is just factually incorrect.

    • George

      I’m no fan of apple, but they’re not patent trolls by definition. Patent trolls buy up patents they have no plan on using other than to sue others that try to use it. Apple is at least using their patents, many of them are bullshit “rectangle with rounded corners” patents, but nevertheless they are using the patents and making products. The trolling douchebags buy up patents so that no one can use them.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=26113286 Luke Deering

    Mass reform on the validity of patents is not going to work since it could instantly wipe out billions of $’s in company assets, so we need to look to the other side for the reform. What do you think about changing the form of compensation for “non-intentional patent infringement”, to where the owner of the patent has the “right” to a given % of future earnings from the company related to the role, as a whole, that the technology plays in the  infrunging website/device, as decided by a judge?

    This would do two things:

    1 – There would be no immediate monitory benefit to the troll, making the law suit less attractive. The troll would be relying on the infringing company to make money from the infringing product or service, and as we know in most cases this is a big gamble.

    2- It would mean that getting suited for infringing on a patent that plays an important role in your product but yet a small role, would
    not really affect you, until you start making money and even then it would only be a relatively small % of your earnings.

    I think something similar to this idea should be pushed. Any ideas on how this could become a more complete solution?

  • http://www.scaffeo.com iTbay

    no different than a ambulance chaser. 

  • Anonymous

    Dude….this is so disheartening. As a software engineer my projects live and die at the patent . To know someone is doing this….UGH

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  • http://twitter.com/Luke_Deering Luke Deering

    Ben, love to have an interview with you on our new site HowToWriteABusinessPlan.com a resource for startups with interviews, resources and events. I know you have been involved in a few startups and i am sure our readers would love to hear about your experiences.  drop me a message dude. cheers, Luke

  • http://www.facebook.com/raya.coriatmoyal Raya Coriat Moyal

    Hi Ben, Thanks for the article. Several years ago a film was created regarding the electric car, and how oil companies bought the patents to them, and subsequently halted and frankly sabotaged further tech development just to protect the oil business. Sounds criminal to me. I am not a lawyer but it sounds like abuse of the law when people are not using patents to actually protect their own brilliant inventions, but, rather, for various alterior motives.

  • Donny

    I’ve actually had the displeasure of working with rakesh ramde and his partner Wilfred lam of i2z and to call them trolls is disrespectful to all trolls. We hired their firm innovation sciences management to write some patents for us and they outright stole it after we complained about the bill. The final bill was three times our quote. They took it and filed it under their names. These guys are the scum of the earth and I hope no one ever uses their services. By the way, they held onto our 5 k retainer. Boycott these guys.