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Patent Trolls - Friend or Foe?

Patent Trolls

Patent Trolls – Friend or Foe?

An interesting debate to watch is the one surrounding Patent Trolls. Whether a patent assertion is viewed as a “shakedown” or a simple property right enforcement depends on which side of the fence you sit. Patent trolls have become an ever-increasing problem in recent years. The turning point for the trolls (when it became recognized as a potentially lucrative business model) was when the barcode patent litigation took place.  The barcode patent litigation was an infamous litigation series brought about by Norman Woodland’s estate, a Manhattan Project scientist. Woodland came up with barcodes long before the technology was available to make the idea a reality. With the advent of affordable lasers in the 1970s, barcode technology became economically feasible. Woodland subsequently took out several additional patents related to the idea throughout the 1980s and 1990s. The subsequent court cases generated close to an estimated $1 billion in settlements before the patent was declared invalid in 2005. In more recent years, the technology sector, in particular, has given rise to all sorts of troll activity, creating a problematic mess to sort out. The sheer volume of patents being filed and granted – many of which are comprehensive – alongside the explosion of apps and software has created a fertile breeding ground for going after anybody and everybody with patents. No matter how tenuous the claim.  According to the Boston Globe, [They] see [themselves] as “doing a service to combat rhetoric by what [they] call the “infringer lobby,” which seeks to conflate all patent assertion work with the more dubious pursuits of unscrupulous trolls. There are bad actors, on all sides.” Where do you sit? Are “Patent Trolls” or “Patent Assertion Entity” a necessary evil? Or are the trolls simply pulling a “Robin Hood,” helping out the little guy? Tell us in the comments below. 

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