My goal in this post is not to revisit generally the argument pro and con, but to consider how the issue was recently addressed by the wide-circulation business weekly, Bloomberg Business Week, in article entitled, "The 'Troll' That Tocks Off Techies", which was published on February 15 under the byline of Rachel King. More specifically, in an effort to bring the pro and con of "patent tolls" within the scope of an apparently self-imposed one-page limit, the article brings snippets and quotes that are apparently intended to give a flavor of the various positions on patent trolls. That said, the article contains several hard-to-understand comments that reflect the mushy boundaries that have been emerged in connection with the patent troll debate.
1. "Critics say trolls try to apply patents that are too broadly defined or that cover ideas that existed before the patent was granted. Many say the entire U.S. patent system needs reform. But for inventors who alone can't take tech companies to court over meaningful innovations, the Acacias [company that acquires patents and then seeks to obtain fees for their use--NJW] of the world play a vital role."
COMMENT: I guess I need some help here. What exactly is the "market" for patents here? Why do "nonpracticing entities" (i..e.,"patent trolls") solve the "transparency" problem resulting from nondisclosure agreements? What indeed is the "transparency" problem? Why should I care that the "transparency" problem is solved?
COMMENT: It's a bit hard for me to follow this claim. If this VC went into these investments without being aware of the likelihood of possible third-party patent suits, they have a due diligence problem. If this VC was aware of the risk of possible suit, then one would assume that this risk was priced into the terms of the acquisitions. Further, if the lasuit is "frivolous", the patentee also has to weigh the risk of pursuing a suit against the possibility that it may lose the case.
"... [W]e should not focus so much attention on labeling particular plaintiffs as trolls or not, but instead on making sure that the patent rules provide patentees of all types fair compensation but not opportunities for hold-up."How the business journalists will react to this sugestion is an open question.