Patent Trolling’s twin: Copyright trolling
I’ve covered Patent Trolling in some detail in the movie The Patent Scam.
Today I’ll briefly go over a variation on this theme being practiced by trolls now: Copyright Trolling!
One example of Copyright Trolling could be, for example, taking out thousands of copyrights on the floor plans of houses. (“Ooo! This one has a living room connected to bedrooms! This one has a kitchen next to a dining room! This one has a window in the front door so people can see though it!”)
Then, once you’ve copyrighted a few thousand floor plans, you freely send out them out to construction companies (now they’re likely to be used!)… and then start trolling the internet, looking for anyone that has actually used some variation of the vague plans you sent out.. and sue them for stealing your idea! Easy money: Just sketch out a few thousand floor plans of what you think a house might look like, send ‘em out, and then start filing the lawsuits if anyone builds a house close to what you sketched!
As it turns out, this isn’t just a hypothetical case.
Let’s look at a company called Design Basics. ( https://www.designbasics.com , https://www.facebook.com/DesignBasics )
These people have copyrighted literally thousands of vague floor plans.
Let’s look at their work for a moment:
“Women-centric” floor plans… 748 of them… the “Cotter”… this one has a kitchen connected to a dining room!
The “Shelton Farm”… this one has a kitchen connected to a dining room!
The “Crandall”… Oooo! This one has a kitchen connected to a dining room! Who could have thought of that?
And this list goes on, and on, and on. These floor-plans are vague because they’re NOT architectural designs! Nobody could actually BUILD a house with just these plans! They’re just basic floor plans that anyone could dream up and sketch on a napkin!
So, once Design Basics has dreamed up a few THOUSAND vague and simple floor plans… they post them at their web site, and send them in mass mailings to the National Association of Homebuilders.
Now, with these simple, vague floor-plans (not full architectural drawings!) out there for everyone to see… they look for someone to actually build a house that has a similar layout, and then jump in with the lawsuit!
Over ONE HUNDRED lawsuits have been filed so far.
Each of these cases represents countless hours and dollars that people have been forced to spend to defend their right to use a common and obvious floor plan… or face summary judgement and be forced to turn over money to a copyright troll. Imagine running a business whose goal is extract money from people, ruining their business and lives, based on such flimsy work as vague floor-plan sketches.
So is this company just defending actual original work?
As it turns out Patrick Carmichael and Myles Sherman purchased Design Basics as an ‘investment’ and are now using lawsuits as their core business model ( http://media.ca7.uscourts.gov/cgi-bin/rssExec.pl?Submit=Display&Path=Y2021/D04-23/C:19-2716:J:Sykes:aut:T:fnOp:N:2694335:S:0 page 4). In 2014 Paul Foresman, working for Design Basics, emailed Patrick Carmichael with the subject line “A gift for you”… the “gift” being that someone had perhaps built a house with a floor plan similar to one of the plans that Design Basics dreamed up.
Remember, in the United States, we are not allowed to sue for PROFIT: A lawsuit is designed to recoup damages that have been done to a person… not act as a “gift”, like a winning lottery ticket.
Carmichaels response to the email? “Wow very nice gift my friend”.
Paul Foresmans’ position in the company? DIRECTOR OF BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT.
I used to believe that while PATENTS (where you claim to own AN ENTIRE IDEA) were non-sensical, but COPYRIGHTS should be safe from this type of behavior, since they protect an ACTUAL SPECIFIC WORK… but as we see in cases like this, even copyrights can be used an an excuse for trolling… you just need to draw something that is easy and obvious enough that anyone could dream up… and then claim ownership of that simple drawing for yourself!
What amazes me is that Design Basics ( https://www.designbasics.com , https://www.facebook.com/DesignBasics ) is still in business… I think the people that go to their site just don’t fully understand who they are actually dealing with there.
Here’s a video that really explains what happened in detail: