NPR's Planet Money looks at Intellectual Ventures, the patent-exploitation firm started by former Microsoft CTO Nathan Myhrvold. Intellectual Ventures presents itself as a firm that goes to bat for inventors, buying up their patents with the intention of getting big guys who abuse them to pay up. But the reality discovered by Planet Money is very different: Intellectual Ventures doesn't put up very many compelling reference customers for their "protecting and enriching inventors" mandate, but there are
examples of patents being sold on again to out-and-out trolls who make nothing but lawsuits, using shaky patents to attack big and small firms and extract rent from them. It appears there's even a town in Texas where empty office buildings house the "headquarters" of shell companies who buy poor-quality patents from distressed companies and get big judgements from a sympathetic local court. Overall, Planet Money paints a picture of software patent aggregators like IV as parasitic bullies who use their enormous patent portfolios to intimidate other firms into paying fees that end up being incorporated into the prices that you and I pay when we buy goods and services.
It's kind of a cliche to knock on the door of the empty office. But we'd flown a long way. So we knocked. No one answered.
When Patents Attack
The office was in a corridor where all the other doors looked exactly the same —locked, nameplates over the door, no light coming out. It was a corridor of silent, empty offices with names like "Software Rights Archive," and "Bulletproof Technology of Texas."
It turns out a lot of those companies in that corridor, maybe every single one of them, is doing exactly what Oasis Research is doing. They appear to have no employees. They are not coming up with new inventions. The companies are in Marshall, Texas because they are filing lawsuits for patent infringement.
Patent lawsuits are big business in Marshall, which is part of the eastern district of Texas.
(Image: DSC09309, a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from 25734428@N06's photostream)
Unified Patents raises money from companies that are the target of patent-trolling and then uses it to challenge the most widely used patents in each of its members’ sectors: now it’s going for the gold.
Jamie writes, “A photographer filed on Monday a $1 billion copyright infringement suit in New York against Getty Images’ American arm, alleging that the company is sending out letters demanding licensing fees for her photos that were donated to the Library of Congress.”
The Electronic Frontier Foundation has just filed a lawsuit that challenges the Constitutionality of Section 1201 of the DMCA, the “Digital Rights Management” provision of the law, a notoriously overbroad law that bans activities that bypass or weaken copyright access-control systems, including reconfiguring software-enabled devices (making sure your IoT light-socket will accept third-party lightbulbs; tapping […]
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