back to article Patent Troll Unit set up by Virginia government to slay lawsuits

Suing a company for patent infringement just got a lot tougher in the state of Virginia. The state (technically a commonwealth) has created a new legal office focused entirely on patent litigation. Specifically, the state's Patent Troll Unit will look to extract penalties and legal fees from companies who make unjust patent …

  1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    So ATM this gives a competitive advantage to businesses operating in Virginia and so encourages them to move there. Could this start other states doing the same thing so as not to disadvantage themselves? A race to the top makes a nice change from the usual race to the bottom as everyone tries to shave pennies from costs.

    1. a_yank_lurker Silver badge

      @ Doctor Syntax - I applaud VA's efforts but since patent law is feral I wonder how effective these efforts will be and whether the ferals will allow VA to intervene.

      1. Gene Cash Silver badge

        So this will be the defendant's version of East Texas.

        They're actually calling it the "Patent Troll Unit" - I wonder if there'll be defamation lawsuits over the name?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          "They're actually calling it the "Patent Troll Unit" - I wonder if there'll be defamation lawsuits over the name?"

          Another good point. Seems that if they were serious they would not so name the unit. Merely being investigated by a govt. arm named "Patent Troll Unit" would harm an honest but wrongly accused company. No thinking politicians would make so elementary an error, or at least their staffs would clue them in.

          The result is a name that sounds tough to the casual news consumer, but can't be used as advertised without lots of blow-back. Was that the intended result?

          1. Marshalltown

            Patent trolls

            Honest, wrongly accused?? Seriously, Virginia did not come out against patents or against patent suits over genuine controversies. Its unit specifically targets companies whose purpose in existence is simply "legal" extortion. They have no "product" that is in any way damaged by their prey's products or activity and they bought the patent simply to collect the royalty. They are simply incorporated hold-up artists that use paper instead of more material weapons.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Patent trolls

              So you don't think this new agency will ever be misused by the Virginia government? I must say, your childlike trust is touching.

              1. Intractable Potsherd Silver badge

                Re: Patent trolls

                "So you don't think this new agency will ever be misused by the Virginia government?"

                Define "misused", and give examples of the sort of thing you mean.

                1. Anonymous Coward
                  Anonymous Coward

                  Re: Patent trolls

                  > "Define "misused", and give examples of the sort of thing you mean."

                  No problem. What happens if a pol quietly intimates to a CEO of a troll company that his company can avoid unpleasant scrutiny from the Patent Troll Unit with a donation to a certain campaign fund? I can think of more scenarios, but you get the point.

                  And if that company isn't really guilty it works just as well!

              2. Tom 13

                Re: will ever be misused by the Virginia government?

                and most certainly never by an AG who has already proven himself to be the ultimate progtard with regards to constitutional protections be they Federal or Commonwealth.

                Yep, Herring got himself into so much trouble with voters he desperately, desperately needs any positive press he can get. And El Reg is more than happy to oblige.

            2. Kurt Meyer

              Re: Patent trolls

              "One lawyer with a briefcase can steal more than a hundred men with guns."

              - Vito Corleone

          2. Fungus Bob Silver badge

            Re: an honest but wrongly accused company

            There are no honest companies.

      2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        @ a_yank_lurker

        Interesting point. I'm not familiar with the arcane workings of what appears to be a dual system of jurisprudence.

        On the one hand it might simply be enough to frighten off the troll to try someone easier, rather like the troll who backed off when they realised their target was a subsidiary of Newegg.

        However there may be something to get a wedge into. For instance if someone were to announce publicly that so-and-so is infringing my patent there could be a possibility of bringing a civil case for libel which, I assume, isn't a federal case. I'm not suggesting that this is how they plan to work it but the linked article indicates something vaguely similar, namely acting on the troll's letter so it could be an offence analogous to demanding money with menaces.

      3. Marshalltown

        @a_yank_lurker ". . .patent law is feral. . ."

        If it is really "feral" then plainly we need an animal control unit to deal with it.

        Besides, the unit's purpose is to "file injunctions." That means that the Commonwealth of Virginia has come out explicitly in favor of digging potholes in the previously smooth road the trolls had from filing suit to payout. The state has designated a unit specifically to impede trolls. It can't act directly against them because patents fall under Federal (not "feral") law, but it can certainly make the bridge they dwell under less homey and their suits more expensive. Given the "prefer low hanging fruit, prey on the weakest" character of patent trolls, incorporation in Virginia becomes a desirable state.

      4. Intractable Potsherd Silver badge

        @ a_yank_lurker re: "feral" law

        You raise an interesting point wrt the State intervening, but is it that much different from the existence of some States which are very much pro-patent trolling?

  2. HildyJ Silver badge

    Wahoo, Wah!

    It's nice to see the Commonwealth getting something right for a change. Like Doctor Syntax, I hope this becomes a trend.

    P.S. The title is the traditional University of Virginia cheer.

  3. The Man Who Fell To Earth Silver badge

    Why don't they save time

    And indict Intellectual Ventures now? It's the poster child for non-productive patent-holding companies whose portfolio is full of dubious patents whose sole purpose is to use the patent troll extortion model (PTEM).

    1. Alistair Silver badge

      Re: Why don't they save time

      " patent troll extortion model (PTEM)."

      Tagged for future use as an ATBMW.

    2. Mr. Byte

      Re: Why don't they save time

      Can a process be patented? If so, someone could patent the troll process, then troll the trolls.

      1. Swarthy
  4. Will Godfrey Silver badge

    Fingers Crossed

    I just hope some intellectual venture {cough} doesn't have enough money to mire this in legal wrangling

    1. a_yank_lurker Silver badge

      Re: Fingers Crossed

      If VA's move is successful, I would expect other states to do the same. Even if VA can only use various state laws, any legal action will drain money from the trolls. The troll model is based on the inability of the victim to mount a proper legal defense. Even if you are aware of the model to mount a defense is likely to cost one some cash and one might be tempted to settle with the troll.

      Another point this move brings up is the possibility of criminal charges against the trolls in VA with the state intervening in the various civil suits on behalf of the defendants. This could be a more interesting threat: meritless shake down suits in VA result in criminal charges in VA with extradition to stand trial.

      Again I hope VA succeeds because the trolls deserve far worse.

  5. johnwerneken


    Rarely does any government anywhere do anything that makes sense (being all of them somewhat accountable to their subjects, who when acting as a group ae insane). This not only makes sense, it might promote progress.

  6. jonnycando
    Thumb Up

    As a Virginian

    I say hooooooray!

  7. NotBob


    How do we get this set up in Texass?

  8. Bibbit

    Shocking common sense.

    I am no lawyer, nor do I live in the US so I do not know if this will work but I really hope it does.

  9. 4ecks

    New TV series

    Law and Order - Specious Patents Unit.

    Trolls defeated in 44 minutes excluding adverts. ;-)

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: New TV series

      "Trolls defeated in 44 minutes excluding adverts. ;-)"

      58 with adverts - and if you're watching the day time version, a fair number of those will be for no-win, no-free leeches lawyers.

    2. Oengus Silver badge

      Re: New TV series

      I like the acronym... Specious Patents Unit (SPU)... (Think "homophone"...)

      It is what most patent trolls will be doing...

    3. Mr. Byte

      Re: New TV series

      Think this might be better for the Law and Order: Criminal Intent format...

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