Wednesday, February 06, 2013

Patent troll goes after "ordinary" podcasters; Shield Act in Congress could help small businesses defend themselves


Electronic Frontier Foundation has warned about a “patent troll” chasing ordinary podcasters.  The company is Personal Audio (link), and according to EFF.  Some of the targets so far have been “How Stuff Works” and Majority Report’s Steve Seder.
   
The link for the EFF story is here.  

There was a bill in 2012 which would have forced companies that file unsuccessful patent suits to pay defendants’ legal bills.  This would be the Shield Act, which would need to be reintroduced in 2013. 


The way patent trolls work is to take out a patent on a broad (software) innovation, get USPTO to approve it, and then contact users of similar technology and claim you owe them a licensing fee, or will sue.  It can amount to extortion, because defending a patent claim is expensive.  Patents on software make less sense than they do for, say, pharmaceuticals.  And you can’t patent an abstract idea (like “do ask do tell”).  The “idea” of a “podcast” or “RSS feed” should not be patentable.

A patent offers a “twenty year monopoly” and makes sense where real investment is required to develop an innovation and investment needs to be recouped financially.

Here’s another video (Feb. 4. 2013), by Julie Samuels talking to Common Cause’s  Bob Edgar (and Mark Cuban’s “Majority Report”), link here. She explains the dangers of “broadly worded patents”.   There is also discussion of the “Open WiFi” patent which could have stopped small cafes from offering WiFi.  Samuels talks about the Sheld Act, and the idea of a “defensive patent commons”.
    
EFF describes patent trolls as levying a “tax on innovation”.  Patent trolls started going after individuals and very small companies only in the past eighteen months or so.  

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