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Ask Slashdot: What To Do About Patent Trolls Seeking Wi-fi License Fees? 347

An anonymous reader writes "My company has been contacted by certified letter by Delaware law firm. They are seeking license fees for a Wi-fi patent. I believe this is a patent troll (not that this matters in relation to dealing with this issue). This is a newly formed law firm less than 4 months old. This patent is U.S. Patent No. 5,506,866. This patent covers equipment and method related to the transmission of information involving the multiplexing information into a stream of signal points (and demultiplexing the same), and related technology. They have 'offered' to license this patent with no amounts specified. Unfortunately we are a small free software company. The company is setup as a sole proprietorship. I'm not asking for legal advise from the Slashdot community. The question is where might one look for 'legal counsel' with the expertise to answer these types of legal questions as it relates to this inquiry. I would prefer to avoid legal fees, court cases, or license fees running the company into the ground. The company is registered in New Jersey."
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Ask Slashdot: What To Do About Patent Trolls Seeking Wi-fi License Fees?

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  • by Kwpolska ( 2026252 ) on Sunday February 03, 2013 @02:33PM (#42779059)
    Would Canada work for those purposes? I guess so.
  • Contact EFF (Score:5, Insightful)

    by folderol ( 1965326 ) on Sunday February 03, 2013 @02:33PM (#42779065) Homepage
    See title. Also don't reply until you absolutely HAVE to. Paten runs out this year!
  • by Impy the Impiuos Imp ( 442658 ) on Sunday February 03, 2013 @02:40PM (#42779141) Journal

    This assumes the troll is being honest.

    They could be building a case for attacking deep pockets later by assembling a history of knocking off a bunch of little guys first.

  • Isn't is a shame (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Overzeetop ( 214511 ) on Sunday February 03, 2013 @03:00PM (#42779303) Journal

    Isn't it a shame that there isn't a significant, statutory penalty for filing or threatening to file a false claim?

  • Re:Curious (Score:5, Insightful)

    by postbigbang ( 761081 ) on Sunday February 03, 2013 @03:02PM (#42779317)

    Which is sadly the reason to incorporate, or do an LLC/LLP, etc., and join the madness of shielding yourselve personal assets from the trolls.

    Sad to have to recommend it, but litigation, whether you're right or wrong, is expensive. Welcome to the game. You start out by losing.

  • by Daniel_Staal ( 609844 ) <> on Sunday February 03, 2013 @03:21PM (#42779475)

    If the OP truly believes that this is a patent troll attacking them, the best thing may be to just ignore them. It's like spam: They are seeing who bites, and then they can reel you in for a settlement. If they send a couple of letters and don't get any response (especially from a small company that may have gone out of business without notifying anyone), they'll just move on to their next possible target.

    Ars Technica had an article on this recently, though I can't find it quickly at the moment. It most cases, the best response was to just ignore the first couple of letters.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 03, 2013 @04:44PM (#42780015)

    "You should always answer a lawyer who sends you a letter."

    Nope. I am a patent lawyer. I would recommend ignoring the first letter unless they have actually filed suit against you (it doesn't sound like they did). However, if this is simply a demand letter, then your opening a dialog with them helps them.

    Chances are, you will not hear from these guys again. If you do, you should start contacting your wifi gear manufacture and the EFF to find others that are being threatened so that you can set a joint defense fund and fight the guys by spreading costs among many. If you do respond, you should state that you do not believe that or understand how you infringe and ask for more detailed information.

  • by Daniel_Staal ( 609844 ) <> on Sunday February 03, 2013 @07:29PM (#42781113)

    The problem is that if you send them a letter it says that you exist and are taking them seriously. You don't actually want to do that; if they know that you are taking them seriously, then they know they can threaten you.

    Let them actually threaten you first: Make them actually do something that costs them money, like file an actual lawsuit. Then you can immediately offer to settle, or whatever. (And just because you are ignoring them publicly doesn't mean you have to ignore them internally - start a chain of internal correspondence showing that you were checking for use of the patent and considering a reply, or something.)

    Right now they haven't actually spent any significant amount of time or money on this. See if they want to, before you spend yours.

"I prefer the blunted cudgels of the followers of the Serpent God." -- Sean Doran the Younger