Monday, October 03, 2016

Intellectual Ventures v. Symantec: can a patent troll's monopoly affect free speech?

There has been a longstanding controversy over a supposed “patent troll” Intellectual Ventures in its battle with Symantec, anti-virus company, with a partial victory for IV in 2015 as explained here by the BBC.

Eugene Volokh has excerpted part of the Federal Circuit’s opinion, which denies some of IV’s claims. Article here.  and opinion here.

One of the settlement terms had forbidden Symantec from using the term "patent troll" to characterize the plaintiff.  That sounds like calling a particular church a cult.

The danger is that a patent holder (especially one who had bought the patent as a “troll”) could use the patent to control speech on the Internet.  There is an informal “fair use” idea even in trademarks and patents, if monopolization (which government patent law effectively creates) could interfere substantially with free speech.  Another account is here, by upping the barriers to entry.

It sounds logical that the same idea could happen with trademarking common phrases.

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