The new disjoinder rules in the recently-passed patent reform legislation may help to reduce the scourge of patent trolls. At least Congress is doing something to address the issue.
6 posts • joined 7 Apr 2011
Though of course it's completely legal for companies to pursue injunctive measures against their competition, I am ambivalent; is it ethical for corporations to use patent infringement merely as anti-competitive tactics, or should these disputes be settled in the marketplace, where they belong?
The increasingly complex web that's developed from all of the mobile patent enforcement actions in the U.S. is truly mind-boggling. What's more, it all seems rather wasteful, when one considers the fact that the likely result of all these lawsuits will be settlements and cross-licensing deals.
One thing I find interesting in a recent FTC report is the FTC's distinction between "good" NPEs and patent trolls (which it refers to as "PAEs"). Many have long noted that there is a need to differentiate between NPEs such as universities and those other entities who abuse the system through arguably-excessive patent litigation. Distinguishing between those bad actors and other NPEs may be helpful in narrowing the focus and the terms of the debate over patent trolls.
It must be lawsuits like this one that convinced Google to try to buy up all of Nortel's patents, for "defensive purposes." Since Intellectual Ventures started suing, I now completely disbelieve the claims of any business entity that it is buying up patents for "defensive purposes only." However, even when it does inevitably start suing, Google will likely be able to evade the "patent troll" label (and thus take advantage of judicial preference for "practicing" entities over NPEs/PAEs), since it also engages in R&D. Clever.
As noted by Alexander Poltorak at GPC: "One cannot help wondering if the latest round [of suits between Apple and Nokia] is not a proxy for a fight between Microsoft and Apple, which are rivals as well." It's questionable whether these mobile wars should take place in the courts, in the form of patent litigation, or should be properly restricted to the marketplace, where they rightfully belong. Whatever one's position on the issue, however, as long as IP rights exist, then patentees have every legal right to enforce them.
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