“…the harm caused by the false, anti-patent narrative [patent troll] carries far more dire economic consequences.”
by: Patrick Anderson | October 13, 2017
The Center for the Protection of Intellectual Property (“CPIP”) Fifth Annual Fall Conference wrapped up this afternoon, October 13th, including a panel composed of reporters and editors whose coverage includes patent and copyright issues.
Representatives from the IP media took the stage, providing the IP practitioners and academics in the audience the rare chance to ask, rather than answer, tough questions. Adam Mossoff, who organized the panel, shined some much-needed sunlight onto the process by which news organizations convey IP-related events to the public. In what may go down as one of the most useful and enlightening events throughout the two-day conference, the panel quickly confirmed the creation of the harmful “patent troll” narrative as a means of over-simplifying IP issues and connecting with larger audiences.
Perhaps understanding the palpable ramifications of such an admission, members of the panel quickly worked to walk back the statement. However, they all seemed to admit and acknowledge that reporters are continually asked to do more with less. In some cases, reporters are expected to produce five stories per day, thus defaulting to simple narratives that are easy to communicate. Further, these reporters become dependent on their industry contacts, further making them more amenable to certain narratives than others.
Calling objectivity a laudable goal, there seemed to be admission on the panel that everyone brings their own opinions and biases into a story, further feeding into narrative creation. In order to communicate complex issues, the kind of which are prolific in the IP world, reporters look for characters and narratives as a means of making stories more accessible to the public. Some panel members suggested that IP stakeholders might be more sensitive to negative coverage, creating the concept that there might actually be balancing in IP reporting. But while “death squad” might be as inflammatory and viral as “patent troll,” the harm caused by the false, anti-patent narrative carries far more dire economic consequences.
Ultimately, the panel suggested two ways to combat harmful narratives. The first, naturally, is to tell an equally simple counter-narrative. For example, if patent owner behavior can be overgeneralized, then so can patent infringer behavior. Another possibility is focusing on the creator’s story.
Echoing the keynote address by TJ Stiles, the panel noted that the creator’s story and struggle strongly counters and undercuts the notion of indiscriminate “bad” actions on the part of patent owners. The second solution could be as simple as picking up the telephone. The panel noted that reporters routinely call academics for thoughts on complex issues, saying “lawyers are in court, but professors are in their office.” Something as simple as telling your client’s story to a reporter may not have an immediate upside to your case, but over time it could serve to break down the opacity and over-generalization made so popular by the current narrative.