Patent trolls defend themselves

Patent trolls—or patent assertion entities—believe they have an unfairly bad reputation and are heading to Capitol Hill to mount a defense.

According to Politico, “Long pilloried in Silicon Valley as a drain on innovation, such companies have seen their troubles mount with regulators and lawmakers. The Federal Trade Commission last week announced it would use its subpoena power to launch a study of them. Congress is working on nearly a dozen bills to curtail their activities. And President Barack Obama has said they 'hijack' other people’s ideas.”

Politico notes that even some tech executives are wary of a troll crackdown, which they believe could weaken overall patent rights.

Congress is considering such measures as making the trolls pay defendants' legal costs if the trolls lose lawsuits.

Intellectual Ventures (IV), the patent assertion entity headed by Nathan Myhrvold (former Microsoft CTO), has touted its role in helping startups. On September 11, IV announced that smart-thermostat maker Nest had become a customer, obtaining “… access to IV’s portfolio of nearly 40,000 assets.” In a blog post, IV notes, “You’ll continue to see IV partner with companies that run the gamut—from startups like Nest, to multinational tech companies, because the common denominator among each of these companies is a strategy that puts patents to work for their business.”

Politico writes that Segway inventor Dean Kamen embraces the troll label, quoting him as saying, “It took me years to become a troll. If you undermine the value of patents, you make it hard for innovation to be funded.”

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