Oklahoma's Anyware Mobile Solutions was founded in 1997 to make PDA software, but after its sales collapsed, it changed its name to Macrosolve and devoted itself to suing people for violating a farcical patent that they said covered filling in questionnaires using an app.
Starting in 2011, Macrosolve became a prolific patent troll, suing 59 companies in dozens of lawsuits, filing in the notorious, patent-troll-friendly East Texas court system. It made its first million bucks in a few months. As a PR move it Macrosolve then hired Donald Trump Jr to be the company's spokestroll, paying him $45,000 and 5,000,000 shares for two years' worth of PR consulting.
Junior was happy to extol Macrosolve's business model to the press, praising them as a "pioneer" and calling apps "digital real estate." Junior promised aggressive expansion of Macrosolve's business, thanks to its "landmark patent" but the company effectively ceased to generate any income, except from lawsuits. Then, as the noose started to tighten around patent trolls, Junior penned an editorial, "Defending Innovation in America," in which he argued that the real problem for the software business in America was limits on patent trolling, not trolling itself.
Junior took Macrosolve's case to the Fox Business Channel, arguing that his client was a "true innovator." But once Newegg challenged Macrosolve's patent threats, the company's other victims also stopped settling, and then the US Patent Office invalidated Macrosolve's patent altogether. The company was sold to Drone Aviation Holding Corporation, whose vice-chairman was General Michael Flynn -- a position Flynn retained even during his brief stint as Trump Sr's security adviser.
Trump, Sr is going to get to choose the next head of the US Patent and Trademark Office.
Drone Aviation grabbed more than $700,000 in Defense Department contracts last year, according to the Daily Caller. The company has a tethered drone product and is bullish about the patent it has acquired to protect it, according to reports. Drone Aviation didn't respond to requests for an interview for this story, nor did a top lawyer for the Trump Organization.
Scrutiny of Trump's businesses, now controlled by Trump Jr. and Eric Trump, has so far not focused on patents. But the Trumps' collective view of patents could have significant effects on the tech sector. President Trump picks the director of the US Patent and Trademark Office, who serves at his pleasure. Even somewhat technical changes to Patent Office rules matter greatly. For instance, the different types of re-examination proceedings created in 2011 have had a huge effect on the economics of patent trolling, with relatively low-cost inter partes re-exams having been effective at knocking out many types of patents. Tweaking the inter partes process in favor of patent holders could give a big boost to the patent enforcement business.
MacroSolve: Donald Trump Jr.’s favorite patent enforcer [Joe Mullin/Ars Technica]
(Image: Trump's Hair)