Trolling for Dollars

This week’s “This American Life” podcast “When Patents Attack” was a fascinating inside look at patent trolling, and the mysterious, yet litigious company known as Intellectual Ventures. Warning: listening to it will make you want to punch somebody.

The show had such an impact on me that when I came home from work, I had to script this ‘toon above as my response. Patent filing has gotten incredibly ridiculous over the years, to the point where companies make a go of sitting on IP (without developing the idea), in hopes that they can sue other companies that develop similar ideas.

This is a hot-bed topic in tech right now, particularly with the rise of Lodsys and their recent raft of IP lawsuits.

Do you feel that IP protection has gotten out of control? Should software patents exist, and if so, should there be a limited window before the patent expires? Share your thoughts and concerns in the comments below!


These beautiful and intelligent people wrote

  • AniseReply
    July 27, 2011 at 12:13 am

    Patent law has been broken for a loooooooooong time, it just took a surge in technical development to focus the light on it. Just like the internet helped to highlight how ridiculous some aspects of copyright law are.

  • birdieReply
    July 27, 2011 at 4:04 am

    I listened to that very same TAL, and it was mind boggling what these people are getting away with. Great comic!

  • BartimaeusReply
    July 27, 2011 at 4:36 am

    Personally, I am of the opinion that software patents should either be extremely truncated in duration (to, say, maybe 6 months?), or that software should not be considered patentable.
    When you consider that software is already protected by copyright (unlike almost every other type of patentable work), and that patents’ current hold is so long that both the patented software and the system it runs on will be obsolete by the time it expires, this forms a strong argument towards truncation or elimination of software patents.

  • Kevin RubinReply
    July 27, 2011 at 4:55 am

    On the one hand, I hate the patent trolls, the companies whose sole business seems to be suing for patent violations. That just seems pretty scummy. And lots of companies are also patenting things that just seem too obvious.

    But on the other hand, I’ve never been in a position where I had some software invention that I legitimately wanted patent protection for, in order to build a real business around it.

  • ToviasReply
    July 27, 2011 at 8:43 am

    Mr. Sadasivam,
    My company holds the patent on listening to or observing the world around you, specifically involving radio, television and internet, for ideas that inspire comics (either print, web, or via other electronic means). We ask that you cease and desist gaining ideas via our patented methods or we will be forced to pursue this case via legal avenues.

  • KrishnaReply
    July 27, 2011 at 9:07 am

    Lol, well played Tovias. well played. ;)

  • SteveReply
    July 27, 2011 at 9:50 am

    I think the patent system should stay as it is with a major modification: you can’t sue someone for breaching your patent if you yourself haven’t developed, marketed and sold a product based on the patent you own.

Tell me what you think!