Michael Carrier’s recent op-ed on patent trolls had many valuable points, but this one in particular grabbed my attention:
Much troll activity today is hidden beneath a labyrinth of shell companies. Acacia’s subsidiaries control 250 patent portfolios. Intellectual Ventures has used at least 1276 shell companies to purchase and hold patents. Given this, how could potential targets engage in licensing negotiations or evaluate patent portfolios? The agencies must be able to shine sunlight on this subterranean network, obtaining complete information from patent acquisitions, among other conduct, to determine competitive effects.
I’m going to guess that, if someone tried to expose (or require disclosure) of the port-trollios, the firms would respond “our combination of patents is itself valuable IP–a trade secret!” They may follow Silicon Valley giants’ pattern of trade secret expansionism. Are we ready for the term “trade [secret] troll?”