A Patent Behemoth Rears Its Head

Thanks to Mike and all the other folks for having me here- I look forward to being a regular contributor.  For my first post, I want to note a few lawsuits filed by Intellectual Ventures, probably the largest (by patent holdings) “non-practicing entity” (or NPE, or more pejoratively “patent troll”). Thanks to Dennis Crouch for reporting.

The cases are interesting because, to date, IV has not had to file many lawsuits in order to exploit its huge patent portfolio. As a result, learning information about its holdings is a bit more difficult than it is for litigious NPEs. Dennis notes that the patents are not recorded at the Patent and Trademark Office as belonging to IV.

The suits reveal information that is consistent with an empirical study I am doing about the types of patents that NPEs enforce. I’ll be reporting some of the results of that study here as I complete my analysis. My general theory, though, is that the types of patents that NPEs enforce are largely reflective of inventive society.

In other words, while NPEs do not make their own products, they often enforce patents of those that do. As a result, rather than simply being leeches on society, they are merely an alternative enforcement mechanism that we give to individuals and productive companies alike.

The IV patents at issue in these cases tend to corroborate the data I’ve collected.Some patents patents were originally issued to Ameritech, which merged with SBC, which merged with AT&T. Others came from microprocessor and chip giants AMD and Cirrus Logic. Still others came from individuals and small companies/startups, just like patents in general.

This does not mean one must necessarily be happy that NPEs enforce patents. My primary point is that feelings about NPEs should mirror feelings about patenting in general. I’ll explore this topic further in the future.