The importance of the US Patent Office’s “inter partes review” (IPR) process was highlighted in dramatic fashion yesterday. Patent appeals judges threw out a patent [PDF] that was used to sue more than 80 companies in the fitness, wearables, and health industries.
Trying to succeed as a startup is hard enough. Getting a frivolous patent infringement demand letter in the mail can make it a whole lot harder. The experience of San Francisco-based Motiv is the latest example of how patent trolls impose painful costs on small startups and stifle innovation.
Two can play the lawsuit game, and the National Association of Realtors just dealt itself in. On June 8, NAR filed a civil complaint against Data Distribution Technologies (DDT) requesting that its patent on a “remotely updated database system” be declared invalid and unenforceable by the U.S. District Court.
My experiences while on the “dark side” profoundly shaped my view on the role that Patent Assertion Entities (PAEs), or patent trolls, play in the tech industry. The struggle between PAEs and companies that produce and sell products is not as stark or binary as “light and dark,” or “good and evil,” but the fact remains that PAE litigation does more harm than good. The tech industry is fertile ground for PAE litigation, with its many patents, plentiful companies and an increasing global reliance on technology. PAEs have no incentive to stop unless we in tech work together to stand up against them.