There is a pretty big argument going right now about Patent Trolls, and for many people, the fundamental point that it (very rightly) boils down to is:
“If someone invents a new idea, shouldn’t he be able to protect himself against having it stolen from him? Like, with a PATENT?”
The answer, of course, SHOULD BE “YES”, but in PRACTICE, that has NOTHING at all to do with what is ACTUALLY happening. Much like the argument that hate-crime legislation counter-acts racism, the argument above might sound good to some in THEORY, but has little connection to actual PRACTICE.
Here is how I know: Recently, I had a researcher show me the FIRST BIG HANDFUL Patent Infringement lawsuits he could find in the Eastern District of Texas, where a huge percentage of the Nations Patent Infringement Lawsuits are filed. He found about 80 or so lawsuits very quickly, and I grabbed the first 55 of them whose addresses I could easily find in Tyler, Marshall, or Longview (three cities I could easily drive to once I landed in any one of them in my airplane).
This was 55 cases, not cherry-picked!
These are the first 55 cases I could find in 3 closely-grouped cities.
Click here if you want to download them all and see the lawsuits and addresses for yourself, if you want to go to Texas yourself and verify anything that I am about to say, which you can of course easily do.
So I jumped into 844X and flew to Marshall, Texas and grabbed a rental car to actually GO TO THE ADDRESSES BEHIND EACH LAWSUIT in person and see what was actually there. I had a film crew with me to document everything.
Here is what I found:
Of the 55 Patent Infringement lawsuit addresses I visited:
FIVE were in a SINGLE TINY OFFICE of a Private Investigator (Collins Investigations, 100 North College Avenue, Suite 1504, Tyler, TX),
ONE was a RENTED BOX in a UPS STORE (1910 East Southeast Loop 323, #244, where “#244” is their BOX NUMBER at the store),
and the OTHER FIFTY were EMPTY OFFICES mostly in SEMI-ABANDONED OFFICE-PARKS.
Other than two Private Investigators at Collins Investigations (who refused to comment on camera) and the lady at the UPS store (who refused to comment on camera), there were ZERO people at ANY of the other FIFTY addresses I went to. (I will show the footage of what I saw in the documentary that I am making on this non-sense when it comes out later this year. My film crew documented all of this on-camera).
One interesting note is that one building that housed a particularly LARGE number of Patent Assertion Entities (104 East Houston Street, the Baxter Building, with EIGHT Patent Assertion Entities all in the SAME building, ALL of which were offices with NOBODY there) actually contains many offices for the McKool-Smith lawfirm … a lawfirm that REPRESENTS PEOPLE BEING SUED BY PATENT ASSERTION ENTITIES! Yes, McKool-Smith represents people that are being sued by Patent Assertion Entities… while at the same owning many offices in the same building that houses at least eight Patent Assertion Entities itself. No workers could be found anywhere in this building by me. Just empty offices used as addresses for Patent Infringement lawsuits.
So, of the first 55 cases I could find, ZERO of them were actual businesses producing goods or services as described by their Patents.
ONE HUNDRED PERCENT OF THEM were in empty offices, using the address of a Private Investigator, or a box in a UPS store.
Again: ZERO PERCENT were actual businesses producing goods or services, based on what I could find by going to each address in person.
ONE HUNDRED PERCENT were empty offices, an address in a DIFFERENT business, or a UPS Store box number.
Out of the first 55 cases I could find.
Let’s look at case #59, for example:
Hopewell Culture & Design
104 East Houston Street, Suite 170
(This is the building shared by the McKool-Smith lawfirm. I knocked on the doors of all eight Patent Assertion entities I found in that building, and found ZERO people actually there. This was around 2 pm on a Thursday afternoon).
As far as I can tell from reading the Patent, whoever wrote it seems to think that they own the idea of showing different information when you click on a mouse twice. Read it yourself and see if you agree.
Here is the first claim of the Patent:
“1. A method, comprising the steps of: ascertaining a double-click input to a point-and-click user interface apparatus when an active visual display element is selected, the active visual display element representing content with which a user can interact, wherein interaction with the content prior to the double-click input occurs using a first version of data representing the content; and in response to the double-click input to the point-and-click user interface apparatus, enabling interaction with the content using a second version of data representing the content. ”
Someone wrote that down on a piece of paper.
Now, because he did that, Panasonic, Microsoft, Amazon, and many other companies owe him money.
Which they will pay in legal fees (average $3,000,000 for a defense in a Patent Lawsuit), settlements (average $300,000), or verdicts.
READ that Patent.
Do you believe that whoever wrote it INVENTED DOUBLE-CLICKING?
Do you believe that Panasonic, Microsoft, or Amazon OWE THEIR SUCCESS TO WHOEVER SCRIBBLED THAT NON-SENSE ON PAPER?
So, WHO would file such a lawsuit?
Well, the first answer is, as you can see from the lawsuit, “Hopewell Culture and Design”.
But who are they?
Well, click here: (ONCE! For Gods’ sake just click ONCE! DON’T DOUBLE-CLICK or they can sue us!)
and you see that they file many lawsuits.
Click here to see the patent, and see that the patent is assigned to:
Actify, Inc. (San Francisco, CA)
But who owns Actify?
“Tierra del Oro, LLC (The Fund) is a seed venture capital fund emphasizing technology investments in the internet, software, and telecommunications markets.”
A Venture Fund.
So there is the chain:
Tierra del Oro, LLC is a Venture Fund.
They own Actify.
Actify owns a patent that claims to own the idea of “ascertaining a double-click input to a point-and-click user interface apparatus“.
Actify has a deserted office in a building shared by lawfirm McKool-Smith, with zero people even there as far as I can tell from knocking on the door myself.
Actify sues many companies for infringing on the idea it claims to own… companies that, apparently, “ascertain a double-click”.
Actify does this despite having no products that I can find: Just an empty office in a building owned by a lawfirm.
So when Panasonic, Microsoft, Amazon, and many others are sued, the money goes, presumably, to the Tierra del Oro Venture Fund.
Of course, whenever you buy a product from Panasonic, Microsoft, Amazon, or any of the many other companies that were sued, you pay more for the product so the money can flow to the lawyers and the money-makers (at least the Tierra del Oro Venture fund, in this case).
Because they “ascertain a double-click”.
So, tell me: How does this system “protect the inventor”?
Really. Tell me.