Say it with me the term patent troll is dead (or should be); long live the middleman.
by: Tom Hochstatter | August 6, 2017
[This is the first of a three part series dissecting the patent troll myth, exposing the actors still lurking to perpetuate it for ill-gotten advantage and a clear path forward for all us espousing the virtues of intellectual property. Part II and Part III]
The last straw for me was a few nights previous. I was on the phone with my 24-year old, middle son, who lives in the startup hotbed of San Francisco. Our call was like any other weekly call – just catching up and our conversation stumbled upon his neighbor who works for Virtual Reality technology startup; they are about to launch their first product in a couple of weeks. I got their URL from my son and did a quick scan of their company while we talked.
Given that my firm is representing technology & patents similar to this start-up I was curious to learn more. But I quickly got the Heisman from him, as he was immediately cautious of my multi-question inquiry. He stated matter-of-factly: “Dad, aren’t you a “troll”? You’re just going to go after my friend’s startup for money, right?”
After 11 years in the Intellectual Property industry this was his simple, yet damning summation.
With the initial shock (and waves of internal anger) wearing off, I collected myself and realized this wasn’t a direct attack – this was an education & communication problem, clearly, not just for my family, but business folks and investors across the spectrum.
And it certainly wasn’t hard for me to see why it perpetuates in IP. A quick search returned this page (right) in my browser. Patrent Troll has a ready definition, it’s own Wikipedia Page and an Investopedia page too, among dozens of other results.
War of Words – Literally
Those folks in/around the IP industry opposed to patents and strong patent rights lobby were/are winning the narrative game – falsely perpetuating the behavior of a microscopic percentage of actors in IP to press monopolistic, or at best self-serving oligopolistic agendas.
So I took the next 60+ minutes to walk my son, step-by-step through what we do at Dominion Harbor, how we help the market of intellectual property, how our Monument IP Bank for Start-ups can help his friend’s firm defend against competitors and grow faster, and specifically, how we have helped dozens of individual inventors and corporations alike, rightly earn millions of dollars for their patents and inventions that would likely have never been earned.
It was a very open and honest conversation. At the end of it, he said he understood what I do and how it helps the marketplace, but he didn’t like it because all he had ever heard was the word “troll” and we were bad and just took people’s money.
That is the crux of the problem I am set to focus upon and you will see much of my online work, speeches and industry participation drive a whole new, positive narrative. There are truly Billions as stake.
The Irony is Poison
Everyone that knows me (online or otherwise) knows my bias against this “troll narrative”. I am not defensive about it as I am quite proud of the work I do, my firm does and the inventors and entrepreneurs we serve. It’s important and powerful work.
My adamant opposition to this true war on words is that the misrepresentation has vast and far-reaching damaging implications. Since the AIA was enacted with a gale force tail-wind from the anti-patent establishment, we here in the US (at least) have seen billions of negative economic impact in the form of: reduced R&D spend, lower patent application rates, reduced venture investment, firms fleeing to foreign countries for better patent protection, etc., etc.
Now bringing it home to my son. He is in the creative arts. He creates digital art productions and assets – animation, motion media/motion graphics, visual effects for a broad audience of clients across: film, advertising, TV/Online shows, live events, corporate marketing, etc. Without strong and enforceable copyright protection his entire means to earn a living is at risk the second his work is published. Copy and paste is his biggest competitor…he needs strong IP protection.
He didn’t think he had much to worry about regarding the threat to his ability to earn a living prior to our chat. Hopefully it’s a little less naïve view now, but rest assured I will maintain my avocation for not only him but everyone I believe can be damaged by misrepresentation of intellectual property rights – specifically at the hands of those most intent on stealing them.
For those of you that slept through your Economics 101 course, the rightful term is middleman. More on that soon, next up though the actors who can’t get enough beating the “troll” drum: Unified Patents, HTIA Membership, Representative Issa, EFF, contrasted to those actually making a positive change.
Peter Detkin, apologize!