An Open Letter to Congress

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Dear Senator or Congressman:

Some years ago, living in a cheap apartment by my local airport, I wrote X-Plane, a flight simulator that has since grown to replace Microsoft Flight Simulator as the standard in flight simulation. X-Plane has enabled safer flight of real airplanes by providing low-cost training, has provided millions of hours of enjoyment by hundreds of thousands of customers across the world, and has resulted in millions of dollars per year in taxable revenue- all from an invention that I created, and profited from by turning my idea into a product and selling it to those that wanted it.

Every customer of mine has purchased X-Plane voluntarily.
I have never sued anyone, FORCING them to purchase my goods or services.

Three years ago, a Patent Assertion Entity named “Uniloc” sued me for “Patent Infringement”. Their claim: That I “infringed” on “their” idea BY SIMPLY USING an e-commerce distribution system provided to me by Google to sell my App! This is exactly like you receiving a lawsuit for simply USING a scanner at your office, with the so-called “inventor” claiming that you infringed on “his” idea of making a scanner- even though he never made a product in his life! (A scenario that has, in fact, happened to many small businesses). Uniloc, the entity suing me, simply acquired the rights to a patent: A piece of paper filed with the Patent Office that had a ludicrously vague description of an e-commerce system. Imagine: Filing a piece of paper with the United States Patent office that describes any product in the VAGUEST of terms, and then SUING anyone that ACTUALLY MAKES, or EVEN USES, such a product, claiming OWNERSHIP of the IDEA of the product!

In my particular case, Uniloc did NOT create any e-commerce system that I or Google are using, and their patent certainly does NOT provide the computer code to make such a system! It simply says vaguely that SOMEBODY COULD make an e-commerce system… and now Uniloc can SUE ANYONE THAT ACTUALLY DOES! (And, they do! Uniloc is suing seven other businesses for infringement of the same patent… seven of the thousands that use e-commerce systems every day). Furthermore, this patent was filed long AFTER the ideas it vaguely discussed were in wide-spread use.

This lawsuit, obviously, is draining me of time, money, and energy to continue my creative work.

I have been embroiled in this lawsuit for over three years so far, and as of this writing, there is no end in sight. It has taken THREE YEARS to overturn ONE CLAIM in the Patent. And, as soon as we did so, Uniloc CHANGED WHICH CLAIM it said we infringed on!

There are ONE HUNDRED AND THIRTEEN CLAIMS in the patent.

At this rate, of course, the lawsuit will go on for the rest of my life. A lawsuit filed against me by someone that says that I infringed on “their” idea by simply USING an e-commerce system in my business… a system that neither I, nor the party suing me, created.

The cost to me in dollars, stress, and attention that has been diverted AWAY from new product development is huge.
The resulting reduction in sales and resulting tax base loss both Federally and in South Carolina (where I live) is significant.
The lawsuit is ongoing, and I have little confidence in an impartial trial.
My only ways out are to shut down my business or give Uniloc $50,000 in cash, both of which I refuse to do.
At at a typical cost of $3,000,000 to defend yourself against a Patent Infringement lawsuit, I am one of the very few people who can defend myself. 97% of the people who are sued for Patent Infringement, unable to afford to defend themselves, are forced to settle, paying the Patent Troll that frivolously sued them an average of $300,000.

With that settlement comes a non-disclosure agreement, so that the person being sued CAN NEVER TELL ANYONE WHAT HAPPENED TO THEM.

Is this lawsuit CREATING value, or DESTROYING it?

We need Congress to pass multi-faceted patent reform that addresses this rampant extortion of American businesses.
Any bill passed by Congress should:
-Limit vague and manipulative demand letters, (which are commonly sent to get quick settlements)
-Make trolls clearly explain their claims, (which they are not currently required to do!)
-Protect innocent customers and consumers of technology, (so they cannot sue USERS of technology they claim to have THOUGHT OF!)
-Make patent litigation more efficient, (it costs THREE MILLION DOLLARS to defend a patent-infringement lawsuit!)
-Make abusive trolls pay the costs of meritless litigation, (the only thing that will stop the shotgun-filing of lawsuits!)
-Provide less expensive alternatives to litigation (the only way small businesses will be able to AFFORD justice!)

A comprehensive bill that addresses all of these issues will do much to protect and promote the innovative inventor economy.

Sincerely, Austin Meyer, author, X-Plane and Xavion
Laminar Research
5001 Radcliffe Rd
Columbia, SC, 29206

PS: Those that represent the patent-trolls might tell you that our patent system “Protects Inventors”.

In fact, in my experience, this is NOT what the Patent system actually does.
In actuality, the Patent Office gives the Patent Trolls the ability to obtain patents that VAGUELY describe what workers in the industry like myself do every day… and then sue us for actually DOING it.

The United States Patent and Trademark office approves GROSSLY obvious patents, making the job of the Patent Troll easy.

PROOF:

A STICK that a dog can FETCH?
SWINGING on a swing SIDEWAYS?
Taking a PHOTO of something in front of a white screen?

ALL of these are patents that have actually been RECENTLY APPROVED by the Patent Office.

The inadequacy of the Patent Office can NEVER be solved, because the people working in the Patent Office can NEVER know who is the first to think of something! Since the Patent Office WILL CONTINUE to approve un-justified patents, the LITIGATION REFORM mentioned above is the ONLY hope for those like myself that CREATE goods and services for a living, rather than SUING those that do.

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