Tuesday, May 07, 2013

Survey by CA law professor shows destructive impact of patent trolls on small business, employees, even customers


The “Law and Disorder” or “Civilization and Discontents” page of Ars Technica has an article by Joe Mullins reporting on a survey by Professor Colleen Chien at Santa Clara Universiry on patent trolls.  The link is here.  Be sure to read the comments.

It appears that 62% of patent suit claims are filed by “trolls” who buy patents only to litigate.

Businesses report that they have withheld products from consumers and reduced hiring as a result of trolls. 
And troll s have sometimes gone after customers.  One company was chased for $1000 per worker just for using a scanner.

It’s hard to understand how, if you buy  or lease an item, you could be liable for the misuse of a patent.  What about a (business) customer who leases a car as well as the company the leases it?

It’s clear that patent trolling disproportionately impacts small businesses and staetups, who don’t have the deep pockets to defend themselves against frivolous claims.

What if a webmaster of blogger used an app on his site, and the troll went after bloggers or websites that used the app?  Has this happened?
   
The troll problem does remind me of a common practice in the 1990s, when auditors from the Software Publisher’s  Association would visit a company (like where I worked) and verify whether the company had licensed all its software copies, especially those taken by employees who telecommuted from home.  In the 1990s, I actually did not allow work-related software to be installed on my own laptops partly for this reason.  .  

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