by: Patrick Anderson |
A years-old story was reintroduced to the public this week as pundits and pontificators search for any clues or insight into how the Trump administration will approach IP and innovation policy. Back in 2012, Donald Trump Jr. reportedly received cash and stock in exchange for serving as a public relations consultant for the patent licensing entity Macrosolve. This service included Trump Jr.’s op-ed on “defending” innovation, in which he defended Macrosolve’s patent litigation activity (which ultimately comprised over 60 lawsuits against dozens of defendants), explaining that “swift and forceful legal action is the only way to slow the sprawl of corporate copycat apps and protect the rights of individual and small-group innovators.”
As an aside, after all of Macrosolve’s claims were canceled in an ex parte re-exam—unceremoniously ending it’s licensing campaign—what remained of the company was acquired by Drone Aviation, in which Trump’s former national security advisor, retired general Michael Flynn, would go on to serve as Vice Chairman.
So in the ongoing effort for insight into the new President’s innovation policy, examination of Trump Jr.’s efforts yields some rather unfortunate and misguided views. Although Jr. staunchly defended Macrosolve’s actions, he did so with the express reservation that this particular patent owner, who happened to be paying him to generate positive PR, was different than “trolls” whom he claimed “produce nothing and leech off the system.” According to Jr., his client was different from those sinister entities who only “manipulate and abuse the spirit of the patent protection system by masquerading circumvention and other ancillary matters as true innovation.”
The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, obviously, as Jr. fails to offer any evidence of these claims, and contradicts himself in the process of simultaneously deriding patent owners and praising Macrosolve. He cites their “continuing 15-year record as a player in the mobile technology market” and the accompanying “real historical and financial investment” to distinguish Macrosolve from other entities that are presumably lacking such characteristics. Although he doesn’t go into detail on who these mischievous characters might be, one fair inference is that he’s referring to assertion entities who acquire patents from other companies for the express purpose of generating a return on that investment through licensing.
The fundamental truth Trump Jr. bizzarely both understands and misunderstands, simultaneously is that patents are a property right, and a company like Macrosolve is free to acquire, license, or dispose of their patents as they see fit. You might even say, as Jr. notes, companies “deserve to reap the fruits of their labor.” Indeed they do. They also deserve to decide the best way to reap those fruits, and that includes the right to transacting their IP assets to an entity that specializes in licensing. If Macrosolve had done so, should their successor-in-interest not deserve the same respect Jr. gives to Macrosolve itself? Does the transaction change the nature of the invention, or negate the years of “real historical and financial investment”? If so, please tell me how in the comments.
So while IP owners undoubtedly deserve an advocate with the ear of the White House that will staunchly defend patent rights, we definitely don’t need one who will ignore—or, worse yet, negate—the rights of IP licensing specialists that help facilitate the patent marketplace, giving options to the thousands of innovators who, for a variety of reasons unrelated to their brilliance and ingenuity, were unsuccessful in the marketplace.