Have you used a scanner recently? Have you made, or listened to a podcast? How about software, do you usde some in your daily life?
Then you’re at risk from being sued. Better get a good lawyer.
You may have heard of patent trolls (more politely known as patent assertion entities), companies that acquire old, obscure, or ridiculous patents for no other reason than to sue, although patent trolls do not want things to go that far. They demand just enough money to drop their lawsuit, that it’s usually cheaper to pay up and make them go away than it is to hire lawyers to fight what is usually a frivolous, unproven claim. In short, they don’t want their claims to be closely examined.
Patent trolls contribute nothing to the economy or our society. In fact, they’re an immense drain – sucking billions of dollars from companies that would ordinarily innovate, make their products better, or create new products. They usually hide behind a network of shell companies, making the true owners of the patents (and the lawsuits) almost impossible to determine. They are not at all happy when they are unmasked.
It used to be large companies that patent trolls targeted, but more recently, trolls are coming after end-users of everyday products. People who use scanners and podcasting software have become targets. Getting a threatening letter from a law firm is enough to make many small business owners (and individuals) frightened enough to pay up.
Trolls have finally become so greedy, and such a nuisance, that people are fighting back. The computer distributor Newegg has spent millions fighting trolls out of sheer principle, and have won some important victories. Legislation is pending to rein in the power of these patent trolls, to defang them, so to speak.
This video by artist Kirby Ferguson clearly and concisely explains what patent trolls are, why they’re a problem, and what’s being done about them. Below the video are some links with more information.
- Minnesota Evicts Notorious “Scanner Troll” (Ars Technica)
- Newegg crushes a patent troll in court (Ars Technica)