DSC01817

Work Proceeds

I’m usually too busy to post here but I like it better than posting things like this on facebook. The reason is, that I’m relatively sure that not too many people read this. Thus, it feels more private, that only those who want to read these innermost thoughts are actually reading them.

Either way. I have been writing over 1,000 words a day and working on Deuce Coupe. So far, I’m up to page 4 of 28 pages, 5 if you include the cover. I’ve thought about it a lot and I’m going to redo the intro page as well.

The world of wasteland auto is one of intuitive, powerful technologies left lying around after an apocalypse. Those technologies will be things like isotope conversion cars that basically have engines and make a vroom vroom sound because the designer wanted it to, not because they need to. Then there will be the bionic banks, basically replacement parts for people, they were originally intended for the Automatonik population, but they fit people just fine.

Oh, yeah, the apocalypse of Wasteland Auto. Basically everyone forgot their phone one morning. Nahh, it’s not that, but that’s kind of a close metaphor. When humanity gets to the point of the post-human ideal, that is we as a species must use a certain technology in order to remain competitive with other members of our species, then we have in fact  become post human. Sound familiar? It should.

Let’s say that post human technology is an external cortex that shares all the common information of mankind with everyone who is connected to it. It’d be like walking around with wikipedia on speed dial, and google on demand. You already have these things, but I mean having them at the speed of thought. Which is where a lot of research is heading. Just saying, check out the blue brain project and deepmind. So, you’re brain quits storing facts, it just stores modes of behavior now that you’re on the Exocortex.

What happens if that Exocortex then gets corrupted?

Wasteland Auto happens then. It’s the people who’ve fallen through the cracks of the apocalypse and the Singularity. It’s Twilight Zone in a junkyard with a side helping of Amazing Stories.

Wasteland Auto.

 

Back to work.

DSC01879

Society6 Prints Available!

My store is up on Society6 and the world is welcome to shop there! The only thing in it right now is the cover for issue #2, Deuce Coupe, but I think it’s the best cover I’ve ever done, so, there’s that. Head over there if you like and check it out. If you don’t like, that’s cool too. In that case go have a beer.

Also, from now until the day I die I will post cool artwork to Society6 for public consumption. T-shirts would be really freaking cool…

Society6 Wasteland Auto Prints

DSC01856

Vegas Mortals, The ebook and the serial

So I got started writing a book the other day. 77,000 words later I was finished with said book. I realized then, that I liked writing. I liked it so much that I’m going to keep doing it. My characters are based on the people I’d known from my youth, back when I styled myself a criminal and hung out with appropriate people.

Vegas Mortals is set in Las Vegas in 2065, the story starts off with Detective Michael Marlowe and Anatoly Ivanovich, a Vor, and the only kind of thing that could get mortal enemies like a Russian Vor and  Cop working together.

Let’s just say if you know me, and read Vegas Mortals, and say “Ah HA!” then you deserve recognition. Just send me an email, if you aren’t on the acknowledgement page I’ll put you there. I may even buy you a beer.

Vegas Mortals, due out on Kindle, soon…

 

cool door

An article I wrote… Patent Trolling Hooray!

 

The Trolls of Patents

An Introduction of sorts

While the name sounds friendly and evocative of early nineties large-haired beasties from cartoons, the reality is laden with litigation. The companies known as Patent Trolls take poorly worded, ill-defined computer and network patents and use them to tie up small and medium size businesses in court, or they can pay a modest licensing fee. In essence, it’s extortion. They start the cycle with cease and desist letters for things like ‘displaying pictures over a network’ or ‘attaching scanned documents to emails’.

This last activity has started legislation to retaliate back at the Patent Trolls. Representatives. Jason Chaffetz (Republican-Utah) and Peter DeFazio (Democrat-Oregon) have co-sponsored a bill that would limit the Patent Trolls attack plans. The bill is called the SHIELD Act of 2013, which stands for “Saving High-Tech Innovators from Egregious Legal Disputes.”

“Patent trolls add no economic benefit to our nation,” said Rep Chaffetz (R-UT). “They have captured part of the system, and they’re exploiting it for their own financial gain. They’re hampering the innovation that our country deserves. Literally every segment of our society’s business is being attacked by these patent trolls.”

The business model of the Patent Troll, or non-producing entity, is to acquire a poorly worded patent and club the baby seals of the business world to death with it by extracting their startup capital with license fees or litigation costs. These guys are the barracudas of internet business, they only look for opportunities to apply this strategy, not build or make anything else, except litigation, or licensing. A legitimate patent-holding company would be busy using its’ patents to build products or enhancing value of other products. These NPE’s have low overhead, few employees and since most of their business is carried out in courtrooms (but leads to cash settlements) they have a very threatening presence.

It costs next to nothing to file a lawsuit these days, but thousands, if not millions of dollars to successfully fight one off. Quite often, just as the fight begins to start in the courtroom, the NPE will make the proverbial ‘offer you can’t refuse’ for settlement, quite often the lawsuit will have garnered enough publicity to draw more NPE’s to the scene.

What the bill does is attempt to force the Patent Troll to pay for the legal dispute, win or lose. There are a number of loopholes within the law, as well as trenchant criticisms that point out things like ‘who exactly is a patent troll?’

The bill would allow patent defendants to file a motion seeking to have a judge rule that the patent owner is a certain type of “non-practicing entity”—although the bill doesn’t use that term. If the motion is successful, the lawsuit can still proceed, but if the patent-holding company loses, it will be on the hook for legal costs. On the surface it sounds perfect, the loopholes come into it when whoever the actual inventor or the patent-holder is closely associated with the NPE, or Patent Troll. The patent-holder seems to grant legitimacy to the plaintiffs arguments.

Now, certain institutions are completely exempt from this bill, such as Universities and plaintiffs that are actually using the patent. Neither of those could ever be considered a patent troll. The affect on international business law will soon be seen as most of the companies affected are multi-national corporations.

The Impact of SHIELD will soon be seen in courts across the land, in 2011 alone, patent trolls excised around 29 billion dollars in license fees and litigation costs.

In the meantime, other high tech companies are getting in on the legislation bandwagon vs the Patent Trolls. Cisco Systems, SAS, Adobe Systems and retailer J.C. Penny have taken up arms against these ‘Idea Terrorists’ as they are called by John Boswell, senior vice president and chief legal officer for Adobe Systems.

Patent Trolls are Business Terrorists

“Patent trolls are business terrorists,” Boswell said during a congressional hearing. “Their weapons of mass destruction are software and business-method patents with fuzzy boundaries that can be asserted against many different products, many different companies, in many different ways.” John Boswell is a senior vice president and chief legal officer for SAS.

One such company, VirnetX, a patent-licensing firm with 14 employees, just recently lost a battle with Cisco Systems over VPN (virtual private networks) technology and subsequently it’s stock prices dropped 40%. The legislation was fought in Tyler, TX, a very unlikely place to try and determine the future of secure internet networking. The choice of venue was clearly designed to play to a smaller towns’ weaknesses and prejudices. Those being that the larger company is always wrong, and that the ‘little guy’ in this case was just trying to get his due and proper payment for use of an idea or patented technology.

In essence, the role of the Patent Troll is to hire lawyers and look for patents to acquire. They acquire these patents in all sorts of ways, everything from internet auctions to estate sales. The Patent Troll then begins to assert that patent by demanding license fees from medium to small businesses. The smaller businesses are easier to intimidate and often purchase a license rather than face a ruinous legal battle.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation summed up some of the major problems with software patents in an article targeted at Patent Trolls.

Software patents are an attractive tool for patent trolls because they are notoriously difficult to interpret—giving unscrupulous patent owners the ability to claim that their patent covers a wide range of technology.

This escalation of patent troll litigation has been very costly. The research shows that “NPE lawsuits are associated with half a trillion dollars of lost wealth to defendants from 1990 through 2010. During the last four years the lost wealth has averaged over $80 billion per year.”

Source https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2013/03/patent-trolls-hot-seat

 

One such company, VirnetX, a patent-licensing firm with 14 employees, just recently lost a battle with Cisco Systems over VPN (virtual private networks) technology and subsequently it’s stock prices dropped 40%. The legislation was fought in Tyler, TX, a very unlikely place to try and determine the future of secure internet networking. The choice of venue was clearly designed to play to a smaller towns’ weaknesses and prejudices. Those being that the larger company is always wrong, and that the ‘little guy’ in this case was just trying to get his due and proper payment for use of an idea or patented technology.

That case was to the tune of 258 million dollars, none of which would have gone to the actual inventor of VPN technology. Which was Bill Gates and Microsoft, who VirnetX successfully sued over licensing in 2010 to the tune of 250 million dollars.

The only quote I could find from VirnetX was a statement of their business plan, which I’ve included below. This isn’t just a collection of ‘Idea Pirates’ sitting in a room with a bunch of poorly worded patents. This is a company with a board of directors, stockholders, shareholders and teams of lawyers on tap to get its licensing fees from whoever gets in the crosshairs.

“We intend to continue using an outsourced and leveraged model to maintain efficiency and manage costs as we grow our licensing business by offering incentives to early licensing targets or asserting our rights for use of our patents,” the company wrote in its 2013 10-K filing. “We also intend to expand our design pilot in participation with leading 4G/LTE companies (domain infrastructure providers, chipset manufacturers, service providers and others) and build our secure domain name registry.”

In normal language their business model is saying that they plan to acquire patents for everyday technology like cell phone networks and buy up domain names so they can sell them to legitimate businesses for a profit. While all of these practices are legal, they aren’t very ethical nor do they pump value back into the economy by way of producing jobs or public projects.

One problem associated heavily with Patent Trolls is their use of poorly worded software patents.  Then, the Patent Troll finds a friendly jurisdiction to try and assert their poorly worded software patent. Typically this has turned out to be East Texas, with Tyler TX being one of the more popular venues. Most judges in that part of the country are in the 65-75 year old bracket and may not be technologically informed. This has led to millions of dollars being siphoned into Patent Troll coffers.

The main opponents of the poorly worded software patents argue that software shouldn’t be patented at all, but copyrighted much like a book or any other printed work. The hard part is enforcing plagiarism and determining if plagiarism has even occurred. The courts have come to rely on a process known as prior art.

Prior art, in most systems of patent law, constitutes all information that has been made available to the public in any form before a given date that might be relevant to a patent’s claims of originality. If an invention has been described in the prior art, a patent on that invention is not valid.

Source – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prior_art

That means that if the invention was out rolling around before you patented it, such as putting images on the net in 1991 vs a Patent Troll company 1994 patent of displaying images on a network, then the prior art (your images on the net in 1991) would invalidate the patent of the Patent Troll.

The facts that are rapidly coming to light is that the US Patent System may need an overhaul in regards to software technology. When asked during a Google+ hangout President Obama had this to say. (question included for clarity)

Question: High tech startups are an important engine of the American economy. When I go around and talk to other enterpreneurs, what I hear is that they’re afraid that if they become successful, they’re going to be targeted by patent trolls… What are you planning to do to limit the abuse of software patents?…

President Obama: “A couple years ago we began a process of patent reform. We actually passed some legislation that made progress on some of these issues. But it hasn’t captured all the problems.

The folks that you’re talking about are a classic example. They don’t actually produce anything themselves. They’re just trying to essentially leverage and hijack somebody else’s idea and see if they can extort some money out of them. Sometimes these things are challenging. Because we also want to make sure that patents are long enough, and that people’s intellectual property is protected. We’ve got to balance that with making sure that they’re not so long that innovation is reduced.

But I do think that our efforts at patent reform only went about halfway to where we need to go. What we need to do is pull together additional stakeholders and see if we can build some additional consensus on smarter patent laws.

This is true, by the way, across the board, when it comes to high tech issues. The technology is changing so fast, we want to protect privacy, we want to protect people’s civil liberties. We want to make sure the internet stays open. I’m an ardent believer that what’s powerful about the internet is its openness and the capacity for people to get out there and introduce a new idea with low barriers to entry. We also want to make sure that people’s intellectual property is protected. Whether it’s how we’re dealing with copyright, how we’re dealing with patents, how we’re dealing with piracy issues. What we’ve tried to do is be an honest broker between the various stakeholders and to continue to refine it — hopefully keeping up with the technology — which doesn’t mean that there won’t be some problems that we still haven’t identified and that we have to keep working on.”

Source

The Patent Trolls have a strict ‘No Comment’ policy.

The US Idea Economy is going Global

In the new century we’ve been experiencing an Idea Renaissance of sorts. Since small business models have been proving to be locally popular and moderately profitable, the Idea behind them becomes more valuable. This often is an innocuous service such as website building, graphic design or other internet business.

Other countries would like to cash in on our progress it would seem. The South Korean and French government have both launched corporations that are purchasing US Patents. The business model of these companies is to charge licensing fees for the use of the patents they hold. What makes these two companies more interesting (or sinister) than others is the fact that their governments own them.

This means that it is in the interests of foreign governments to acquire American patents and licensed intellectual properties. When you find out that Japan and China are also getting into the action it then begins to take on an even more sinister tone.

Groups and companies that profit solely from licensing fees and products to others without actually producing anything or funding any development are known as ‘Patent Trolls.’ To know that other countries are starting to cash in on poorly worded patents in American courts is startling at best, upsetting at worst.

This has become a bipartisan issue with Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore and Reps. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) co-sponsoring the SHIELD act. The SHIELD act will discourage patent infringement lawsuits by non-practicing entities by requiring them to pay their opponents legal fees if they lose.

The fact is that President Obama addressed this issue in a Google+ Hangout with various entrepreneurs. “We passed some legislation last year, but it hasn’t captured all the problems,” Obama said in response to a question. In 2011 the US became a ‘first-to-file’ patent system as opposed to ‘first-to-invent’ with the signing of the Leahy-Smith America Invents Act. The long-term affects of this act have yet to be seen.

The fact is that these countries have decided to start buying patents here, in order to charge licensing fees or use litigation to get these fees in our country. These companies are the beachhead for the coming Idea Revolution. When Presidents and bipartisan movements begin to notice the negative impact of this business model and move against it, things get done, laws get passed.

The Conclusions

In conclusion, in the sea of ideas the Patent Troll swims alone, and for the most part unfettered. It’s a business model that could only evolve as old systems give way to the new. The fact that these companies lay claim to ubiquitous technology through poorly worded documents is at it’s heart, spurious at best. At least that’s what the detractors claim. It’s a bit like someone trying to charge you a dollar for every time you use the word ‘The’ to start a sentence.

Those same detractors also claim that the Patent Troll, or Non-Producing Entity(NPE), is stifling innovation and destroying the chances of small businesses to grow. The fact that many of those small businesses do go under, and do not come back lends credence to these ideas. Also, the fact that the actual inventor doesn’t gain anything from the NPE, except a one-time payout when the patent is bought.

The NPE’s themselves claim that they are merely returning a bit of normalcy to the market, after all, technology isn’t free. The cost of licensing a technology to small businesses is often not profitable enough for the inventor or patent holder themselves to do without major corporate backing. The NPE, in this light, becomes a sort of enforcer for creators’ rights.

Much like the Coach Building companies of the late nineteenth century, the patent trolls, or NPE’s will have to evolve as consumer demands and governmental regulations change. The coach building companies of the early nineteenth century went from building coaches and wagons to luxury automobiles, to the back yard hot rod shops of the 1950’s to the custom car builders of today. In business, as in evolution, it’s either change or die.

The fact that the NPE business model doesn’t add value to existing markets, nor create new markets or products means that it removes value from markets, traditionally those kinds of businesses have been called governments.

cool door

This is a blog…

Blogging has gained some negative connotations and associations in the past few years. Which is why I, for one, have stayed away from them and all the users thereof. Since hearing Wolf Blitzer comment on how the ‘blogosphere’ has responded to various tragedies and administrative gaffes over the years, one thing has become plain about blogs.

People only look at the ones they find interesting, or are told to read.

So, I would hope that you are here because you find patent law as interesting as I do, if not, that’s fine too. My webcomic was here until I figured out an essential truth of webcomics, nobody cares about them.

If you’re an established webcomic author with a large following, that’s great, it’s just not what I want to do anymore. I admit, my concept wasn’t for everyone. I had a good time making it, but ultimately, it turned out to be a bust.

Patent Trolls are Business Terrorists

 

An article by William J. Offutt

“Patent trolls are business terrorists,” according to John Boswell said during a congressional hearing. “Their weapons of mass destruction are software and business-method patents with fuzzy boundaries that can be asserted against many different products, many different companies, in many different ways.”

John Boswell is a senior vice president and chief legal officer for SAS. Patent Trolls are small firms that rely on outsourced legal representation to do most of their work. The lawyers they hire are often working on contingency, which pays a portion of the settlement and are not compensated for their time. This encourages less ethical decisions due to the increasingly large rewards that the lawyers can accrue for themselves.

In essence, the role of the Patent Troll is to hire lawyers and look for patents to acquire. They acquire these patents in all sorts of ways, everything from internet auctions to estate sales. The Patent Troll then begins to assert that patent by demanding license fees from medium to small businesses. The smaller businesses are easier to intimidate and often purchase a license rather than face a ruinous legal battle.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation summed up some of the major problems with software patents in an article targeted at Patent Trolls.

Software patents are an attractive tool for patent trolls because they are notoriously difficult to interpret—giving unscrupulous patent owners the ability to claim that their patent covers a wide range of technology.

This escalation of patent troll litigation has been very costly. The research shows that “NPE lawsuits are associated with half a trillion dollars of lost wealth to defendants from 1990 through 2010. During the last four years the lost wealth has averaged over $80 billion per year.”

Source https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2013/03/patent-trolls-hot-seat

 

One such company, VirnetX, a patent-licensing firm with 14 employees, just recently lost a battle with Cisco Systems over VPN (virtual private networks) technology and subsequently it’s stock prices dropped 40%. The legislation was fought in Tyler, TX, a very unlikely place to try and determine the future of secure internet networking. The choice of venue was clearly designed to play to a smaller towns’ weaknesses and prejudices. Those being that the larger company is always wrong, and that the ‘little guy’ in this case was just trying to get his due and proper payment for use of an idea or patented technology.

That case was to the tune of 258 million dollars, none of which would have gone to the actual inventor of VPN technology. Which was Bill Gates and Microsoft, who VirnetX successfully sued over licensing in 2010 to the tune of 250 million dollars.

The only quote I could find from VirnetX was a statement of their business plan, which I’ve included below. This isn’t just a collection of ‘Idea Pirates’ sitting in a room with a bunch of poorly worded patents. This is a company with a board of directors, stockholders, shareholders and teams of lawyers on tap to get its licensing fees from whoever gets in the crosshairs.

“We intend to continue using an outsourced and leveraged model to maintain efficiency and manage costs as we grow our licensing business by offering incentives to early licensing targets or asserting our rights for use of our patents,” the company wrote in its 2013 10-K filing. “We also intend to expand our design pilot in participation with leading 4G/LTE companies (domain infrastructure providers, chipset manufacturers, service providers and others) and build our secure domain name registry.”

In normal language their business model is saying that they plan to acquire patents for everyday technology like cell phone networks and buy up domain names so they can sell them to legitimate businesses for a profit. While all of these practices are legal, they aren’t very ethical nor do they pump value back into the economy by way of producing jobs or public projects.

One problem associated heavily with Patent Trolls is their use of poorly worded software patents.  Then, the Patent Troll finds a friendly jurisdiction to try and assert their poorly worded software patent. Typically this has turned out to be East Texas, with Tyler TX being one of the more popular venues. Most judges in that part of the country are in the 65-75 year old bracket and may not be technologically informed. This has led to millions of dollars being siphoned into Patent Troll coffers.

The main opponents of the poorly worded software patents argue that software shouldn’t be patented at all, but copyrighted much like a book or any other printed work. The hard part is enforcing plagiarism and determining if plagiarism has even occurred. The courts have come to rely on a process known as prior art.

Prior art, in most systems of patent law, constitutes all information that has been made available to the public in any form before a given date that might be relevant to a patent’s claims of originality. If an invention has been described in the prior art, a patent on that invention is not valid.

Source – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prior_art

That means that if the invention was out rolling around before you patented it, such as putting images on the net in 1991 vs a Patent Troll company 1994 patent of displaying images on a network, then the prior art (your images on the net in 1991) would invalidate the patent of the Patent Troll.

The facts that are rapidly coming to light is that the US Patent System may need an overhaul in regards to software technology. When asked during a Google+ hangout President Obama had this to say. (question included for clarity)

Question: High tech startups are an important engine of the American economy. When I go around and talk to other enterpreneurs, what I hear is that they’re afraid that if they become successful, they’re going to be targeted by patent trolls… What are you planning to do to limit the abuse of software patents?…

President Obama: “A couple years ago we began a process of patent reform. We actually passed some legislation that made progress on some of these issues. But it hasn’t captured all the problems.

The folks that you’re talking about are a classic example. They don’t actually produce anything themselves. They’re just trying to essentially leverage and hijack somebody else’s idea and see if they can extort some money out of them. Sometimes these things are challenging. Because we also want to make sure that patents are long enough, and that people’s intellectual property is protected. We’ve got to balance that with making sure that they’re not so long that innovation is reduced.

But I do think that our efforts at patent reform only went about halfway to where we need to go. What we need to do is pull together additional stakeholders and see if we can build some additional consensus on smarter patent laws.

This is true, by the way, across the board, when it comes to high tech issues. The technology is changing so fast, we want to protect privacy, we want to protect people’s civil liberties. We want to make sure the internet stays open. I’m an ardent believer that what’s powerful about the internet is its openness and the capacity for people to get out there and introduce a new idea with low barriers to entry. We also want to make sure that people’s intellectual property is protected. Whether it’s how we’re dealing with copyright, how we’re dealing with patents, how we’re dealing with piracy issues. What we’ve tried to do is be an honest broker between the various stakeholders and to continue to refine it — hopefully keeping up with the technology — which doesn’t mean that there won’t be some problems that we still haven’t identified and that we have to keep working on.”

Source

The Patent Trolls have a strict ‘No Comment’ policy as regards the press.

The US Idea Economy is going Global

An article by William J. Offutt

 

The Idea Economy is a burgeoning term in todays marketplace. It refers to a countries Intellectual Property base. In plain English, how many patents and inventions that their patent office holds.

In the new century we’ve been experiencing an Idea Renaissance of sorts. Since small business models have been proving to be locally popular and moderately profitable, the Idea behind them becomes more valuable. This often is an innocuous service such as website building, graphic design or other internet business.

 

Other countries would like to cash in on our progress it would seem. The South Korean and French government have both launched corporations that are purchasing US Patents. The business model of these companies is to charge licensing fees for the use of the patents they hold. What makes these two companies more interesting (or sinister) than others is the fact that their governments own them.

 

This means that it is in the interests of foreign governments to acquire American patents and licensed intellectual properties. When you find out that Japan and China are also getting into the action it then begins to take on an even more sinister tone.

 

Groups and companies that profit solely from licensing fees and products to others without actually producing anything or funding any development are known as ‘Patent Trolls.’ To know that other countries are starting to cash in on poorly worded patents in American courts is startling at best, upsetting at worst.

 

This has become a bipartisan issue with Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore and Reps. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) co-sponsoring the SHIELD act. The SHIELD act will discourage patent infringement lawsuits by non-practicing entities by requiring them to pay their opponents legal fees if they lose.

 

The fact is that President Obama addressed this issue in a Google+ Hangout with various entrepreneurs. “We passed some legislation last year, but it hasn’t captured all the problems,” Obama said in response to a question. In 2011 the US became a ‘first-to-file’ patent system as opposed to ‘first-to-invent’ with the signing of the Leahy-Smith America Invents Act. The long-term affects of this act have yet to be seen.

 

In conclusion, the fact is that these countries have decided to start buying patents here, in order to charge licensing fees or use litigation to get these fees in our country. These companies are the beachhead for the coming Idea Revolution. When Presidents and bipartisan movements begin to notice the negative impact of this business model and move against it, things get done, laws get passed. Time will tell if it’s enough.

Now Featuring, The Trolls!

A Feature Article by William J. Offutt

 

The problem is serious enough for the president to have taken aim at it, yet most of America remains in the dark. Why is that? Probably because patent law is boring up until you have to pay extra to license things like the wifi in your house. The fact that some companies want to charge as much as one thousand dollars extra, per computer in the house will definitely get your attention.

Innovatio, a dyed in the wool Patent Troll, began suing many different targets for relatively small amounts last February. The claim was that they owned 17 patents that covered the use of Wi-Fi. Matthew McAndrews of Niro Haller & Niro, responded to many questions in a phone interview earlier in the month. The quote that got everyones attention was this “private homes were only off-limits as part of a strategic decision.” The fact that strategy can and does change frequently in the business world is not lost on me, at least.

Add onto this the fact that other countries are looking toward our shores and seeing intellectual opportunity and it starts to get very 1984 style bleak. France, Japan, South Korea and China are now opening their very own, government sponsored, Patent Troll companies here on American shores. These companies are not set up to produce jobs, markets or develop products, just to extract value from current businesses with license fees and litigation.

My opinion is that as we move into the 21st century a few truths have become self evident on our planet. The first being that war, as previously engaged in, is no longer viable. Nations used to go to war to get land that had resources, then to extract those resources. Now, the Geneva convention, NATO, and several other treaties protect the citizens claim to land and resources regardless of governmental bias. Also, it’s much easier to just offer to extract those resources at a cut rate and then buy them, after all, war is very expensive these days ($630,435,139,279 at last count.)

The second truth being that, Ideas are worth something. Henry Ford knew that as early as 1896 and the automotive giant was one of the few American companies that did not need or accept a bailout during the financial crisis. Ideas are often worth more than gold, and are imminently more portable.

The third truth, is the Internet. The internet has become the extended forebrain of humanity, offering anonymity and interaction across the globe for users and companies alike. It allows for inventors to sell the rights to their patents to faceless buyers when the costs of starting up a company are so high as to be prohibitive in their home country.

Take these three factors into account and a new age of War is dawning. Instead of rifles, tanks and artillery, there will be emails, patents and litigation. The fact that every day we pay more for ubiquitous items simply because of the licensing involved has slipped right past us. Starbucks coffee for 4 dollars a cup when the exact same blends sell at Peet’s Coffee for half that. The extra is apparently for the Starbucks ‘atmosphere’ and environment (which contains Wi-Fi incidentally.) This trend extends to nearly every facet of our lives, from the cars we drive, to the places we eat, which are all licensed franchises of larger companies. After all, you can pay less for a burger at the ‘MytiBurger Shack’ than you do at McDonalds, but that Mickey D’s franchise label and license has become a reassurance of sorts and you pay extra rather than stop at the small business owners ‘MytiBurger Shack.’

The business model of the Patent Troll was designed to take advantage of us both culturally, and financially. The cultural aspect is that the Patent Troll claims to defend ‘creators rights’ when none of the money it excises goes to the creators to fuel further development. As americans we root for the little guy, from the movies ‘Rocky’ to ‘Real Steel’ show this.

Patent Trolls take advantage of this by choosing the venue of their court battles very carefully. Places like Tyler Texas, a rural, east texas community of 96,000. The people of the area have long held to conservative values and American ideals, like rooting for David vs the Goliath. The only problem is, the Patent Trolls make a convincing con of trying to say they are the David in the scenario when the fact is, it isn’t David vs Goliath at all, it’s more like rattlesnakes vs rats, and it’s anyones guess who’s the rattlesnake and who’s the rat.

There are myriad solutions available and on the table for the current administration to utilize to solve this problem. The first, was the ‘America Invents Act’ that was signed into law this year. Enabling inventors to be able to file a patent based on concise drawings and writings. This will allow for some easier development by American inventors.

The problem is, and remains, how copyright law is applied to software and technological patents.  The fact that the judges who rule on this technology are quite often old enough to be the grandparents of the inventor, and thus out of touch with it, is astounding. The grandparents of the Wright brothers served in the American revolution, if that helps you put things in perspective.

One solution has been to put software under Copyright instead of as a Patent, that would give rights to the author of it and allow for it’s dissemination into the public domain after a set number of years. This has been lauded as one of the best solutions so far. It doesn’t settle the Patent Troll question though, and my answer to that is threefold.

First, Patent litigation gets it’s own court system, expressly dedicated to patent law. If we don’t protect the American Idea economy, other countries will take possession of it.

Second, Judges must have either a Bachelors degree in the field in question, or an associated field, and maintain 4 independent experts on the technology in question. The in-depth solution would be to have those experts do a ‘blind assessment’ of the technology and inform the judge accordingly.

Third,  provide incentive for businesses to produce and develop more than license and bill. In short, our countries model for making money needs to get back to a production ideal rather than licensing and selling off of an idea. It’s all well and good to have the idea for a better mousetrap, but you’re going to have to actually sell it on your own if you want to make money off it. Also, every company that outsources American jobs should be fined heavily.

In conclusion, America needs a more informed Judicial branch, to empower inventors again, and incentivize production instead of rewarding whichever company outsources to india first. If we retained our Idea base and our labor pool, I believe our economy as a whole would be more healthy and robust. The benefits of a more informed and empowered Idea economy would be the very thing that got our country out of hock and with that, I bid you good day.

This has been Joe Offutt, with Action 47 news.

Patently Good for You

An Editorial By William J Offutt

 

In the sea of ideas the Patent Troll swims alone, and for the most part unfettered. It’s a business model that could only evolve as old systems give way to the new. The fact that these companies lay claim to ubiquitous technology through poorly worded documents is at it’s heart, spurious at best. At least that’s what the detractors claim. It’s a bit like someone trying to charge you a dollar for every time you use the word ‘The’ to start a sentence.

Those same detractors also claim that the Patent Troll, or Non-Producing Entity(NPE), is stifling innovation and destroying the chances of small businesses to grow. The fact that many of those small businesses do go under, and do not come back lends credence to these ideas. Also, the fact that the actual inventor doesn’t gain anything from the NPE, except a one-time payout when the patent is bought.

The NPE’s themselves claim that they are merely returning a bit of normalcy to the market, after all, technology isn’t free. The cost of licensing a technology to small businesses is often not profitable enough for the inventor or patent holder themselves to do without major corporate backing. The NPE, in this light, becomes a sort of enforcer for creators’ rights.

Much like the Coach Building companies of the late nineteenth century, the patent trolls, or NPE’s will have to evolve as consumer demands and governmental regulations change. The coach building companies of the early nineteenth century went from building coaches and wagons to luxury automobiles, to the back yard hot rod shops of the 1950’s to the custom car builders of today. In business, as in evolution, it’s either change or die.

The fact that the NPE business model doesn’t add value to existing markets, nor create new markets or products means that it removes value from markets, traditionally those kinds of businesses have been called governments.

To Slay the Trolls of Patents

While the name sounds friendly and evocative of early nineties large-haired beasties from cartoons, the reality is laden with litigation. The companies known as Patent Trolls take poorly worded, ill-defined computer and network patents and use them to tie up small and medium size businesses in court, or they can pay a modest licensing fee. In essence, it’s extortion. They start the cycle with cease and desist letters for things like ‘displaying pictures over a network’ or ‘attaching scanned documents to emails’.

This last activity has started legislation to retaliate back at the Patent Trolls. Reps. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) and Peter DeFazio (D-OR) have co-sponsored a bill that would limit the Patent Trolls attack plans. The bill is called the SHIELD Act of 2013, which stands for “Saving High-Tech Innovators from Egregious Legal Disputes.”

“Patent trolls add no economic benefit to our nation,” said Chaffetz (R-UT). “They have captured part of the system, and they’re exploiting it for their own financial gain. They’re hampering the innovation that our country deserves. Literally every segment of our society’s business is being attacked by these patent trolls.”

The business model of the Patent Troll, or non-producing entity, is to acquire a poorly worded patent and club the baby seals of the business world to death with it by extracting their startup capital with license fees or litigation costs. These guys are the barracudas of internet business, they only look for opportunities to apply this strategy, not build or make anything else, except litigation, or licensing. A legitimate patent-holding company would be busy using its’ patents to build products or enhancing value of other products. These NPE’s have low overhead, few employees and since most of their business is carried out in courtrooms (but leads to cash settlements) they have a very threatening presence.

It costs next to nothing to file a lawsuit these days, but thousands, if not millions of dollars to successfully fight one off. Quite often, just as the fight begins to start in the courtroom, the NPE will make the proverbial ‘offer you can’t refuse’ for settlement, quite often the lawsuit will have garnered enough publicity to draw more NPE’s to the scene.

What the bill does is attempt to force the Patent Troll to pay for the legal dispute, win or lose. There are a number of loopholes within the law, as well as trenchant criticisms that point out things like ‘who exactly is a patent troll?’

The bill would allow patent defendants to file a motion seeking to have a judge rule that the patent owner is a certain type of “non-practicing entity”—although the bill doesn’t use that term. If the motion is successful, the lawsuit can still proceed, but if the patent-holding company loses, it will be on the hook for legal costs. On the surface it sounds perfect, the loopholes come into it when whoever the actual inventor or the patent-holder is closely associated with the NPE, or Patent Troll. The patent-holder seems to grant legitimacy to the plaintiffs arguments.

Now, certain institutions are completely exempt from this bill, such as Universities and plaintiffs that are actually using the patent. Neither of those could ever be considered a patent troll. The affect on international business law will soon be seen as most of the companies affected are multi-national corporations.

The Impact of SHIELD will soon be seen in courts across the land, in 2011 alone, patent trolls excised around 29 billion dollars in license fees and litigation costs.

In the meantime, other high tech companies are getting in on the legislation bandwagon vs the Patent Trolls. Cisco Systems, SAS, Adobe Systems and retailer J.C. Penny have taken up arms against these ‘Idea Terrorists’ as they are called by John Boswell, senior vice president and chief legal officer for Adobe Systems.

“Patent trolls are business terrorists,” Boswell said during a congressional hearing. “Their weapons of mass destruction are software and business-method patents with fuzzy boundaries that can be asserted against many different products, many different companies, in many different ways.”

One such company, VirnetX, a patent-licensing firm with 14 employees, just recently lost a battle with Cisco Systems over VPN (virtual private networks) technology and subsequently it’s stock prices dropped 40%. The legislation was fought in Tyler, TX, a very unlikely place to try and determine the future of secure internet networking. The choice of venue was clearly designed to play to a smaller towns’ weaknesses and prejudices. Those being that the larger company is always wrong, and that the ‘little guy’ in this case was just trying to get his due and proper payment for use of an idea or patented technology.

That case was to the tune of 258 million dollars, none of which would have gone to the actual inventor of VPN technology. Which was Bill Gates and Microsoft, who VirnetX successfully sued over licensing in 2010 to the tune of 250 million dollars.

The only quote I could find from VirnetX was a statement of their business plan. Which I’ve included below. When you read it, think on the fact that this isn’t just a collection of ‘Idea Pirates’ sitting in a room with a bunch of poorly worded patents. This is a company with a board of directors, stockholders, shareholders and teams of lawyers on tap to get its licensing fees from whoever crosses it.

“We intend to continue using an outsourced and leveraged model to maintain efficiency and manage costs as we grow our licensing business by offering incentives to early licensing targets or asserting our rights for use of our patents,” the company wrote in its 2013 10-K filing. “We also intend to expand our design pilot in participation with leading 4G/LTE companies (domain infrastructure providers, chipset manufacturers, service providers and others) and build our secure domain name registry.”

Essentially, this is one Patent Troll saying to the world “We will not stop, we will not listen, and nor will we produce.”

This is bad business at its best, but the backers and founders are the people that should shoulder the blame and face the consequences of their actions. In Iceland similar business practices were rewarded with jail time and debt forgiveness.