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Why Tech Vendors Fund Patent Trolls 58

Lucas123 writes "Major tech vendors are funding patent trolls, companies that derive the bulk of their income, if not all of it, from licensing huge libraries of patents they hold as well as by suing companies that use their patents without permission, according to an investigation by Computerworld. Tech companies — including Apple and Micron — have railed against patent 'nuisance' lawsuits, only to fund or otherwise support some of the patent trolls. Because of patent trolls, more politely called mass patent aggregators, patent litigation has in part increased by more than 230% over the past 20 years. 'Most of the major tech companies are backing a troll in some way, probably financially,' says Thomas Ewing, an attorney who has authored reports on what he calls 'patent privateering.'"
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Why Tech Vendors Fund Patent Trolls

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  • by flaming error ( 1041742 ) on Thursday April 05, 2012 @01:04PM (#39587387) Journal

    I think this is what it looks like when the system values bureaucracy over results. Viva la Kafka!

  • Math Check.... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 05, 2012 @01:04PM (#39587395)

    "patent litigation has in part increased by more than 230% over the past 20 years."

    Math check... a 4.2% increase, per year, over 20 years yields 230%.

    Is 4.2% per year so much? Given the changes in technology in the past 20 years, that seems quite modest to me.

  • by ashtophoenix ( 929197 ) on Thursday April 05, 2012 @01:14PM (#39587565) Homepage Journal
    The problem is a lot more fundamental and deep-rooted than what you have described. The short time limits, lack of proper reviews are symptoms of the problem. The real problem is the people, the incentives and the fundamental lines on which our world operates. The majority of the world operates not based on the drive to create something, the passion for perfection but rather on making money and gaining fame. Also, we don't understand ideas very well. Where do ideas come from? Do they belong to the person who got them? What if multiple people had them at the same time, whether in close proximity of location or in different parts of the world. Who would they belong to then? To the person who gets the patent? Should they really belong to someone, or the person who happens to get the idea first should only get a small part of the attribution? Who is making the decision to fund patent trolls? The executives sitting in a boardroom. Who is supporting these decisions? Everyone who is a stakeholder - all top level execs as well as senior/middle mgmt as well as stock option holders. Again, incentives supplanting principles/values.
  • by flaming error ( 1041742 ) on Thursday April 05, 2012 @01:21PM (#39587711) Journal

    That's a really good point - thanks for making it.

    And if this rate of increase continues into the future, where it approximately doubles every ten years, in 2020 we'll be 400% higher than 1990 and in 2030 we'll be at 800% and by 2040 we'll be at 1600% ...

    As far as math goes, that's all fine. But behind those numbers we have to put resources, and resources come from meatspace, where there are physical limits to growth. In the finite world, continuous growth is just not sustainable. And even if it were, is this where we want to dedicate our resources?

  • by kipsate ( 314423 ) on Thursday April 05, 2012 @01:22PM (#39587717)
    The way patents work almost forces companies to pursuit the aggregation of huge numbers of senseless patents. How else can a company defend itself against companies doing exactly the same and suing the shit out of them? The patent trolls are not the ones to blame - the problem is the legal framework around patents that allows "trolls" to exist in the first place and build a profitable business on it.
  • by tomhath ( 637240 ) on Thursday April 05, 2012 @01:33PM (#39587905)
    Unfortunately there's no good way to define practicing versus non-practicing. Is a law firm that employs some pimply-faced script kiddie who writes phone apps now a practicing entity? I think the real solution is to eliminate software and business process patents, they're like an architect patenting the idea of putting a window in an office at a specific location. Big deal.
  • by Khashishi ( 775369 ) on Thursday April 05, 2012 @01:59PM (#39588337) Journal

    NPEs win about 23% of the time overall, and PEs win about 39%

    That's a very sad statistic for the patent office. It means they are rubber stamping far too many invalid patents. But you already knew that.

  • by Epimer ( 1337967 ) on Thursday April 05, 2012 @03:22PM (#39589521)

    That statistic tells you absolutely nothing about the validity (or otherwise) of the patents involved in litigation.

    The numbers would include the successful bringing of an infringement action with respect to a perfectly valid patent, for example.

    A declaration of invalidity is far from the only remedy available in patent litigation.

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