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.
The U.S. economy is driven by innovation, but unwelcome “patent trolls” are gunking up the system. Patent reform bills sit idle in Congress as the “trolls” set up companies for the sole purpose, critics say, of shaking down inventors while never creating anything. “We just have to write ’em a check so they’ll go away,” says one disgusted app maker. Economics correspondent Paul Solman reports.
By William Neilson Jr
As Seen In BostInno
“Patent troll” is a not-very-nice way to say “non-practicing entity”–a company that doesn’t own much except patents, and doesn’t do much except sue others for allegedly infringing them. But in the tech industry even lawyers use it. A husband-and-wife investor and tech lawyer are backing a proposal to put an end to it in Massachusetts. In an open letter, Founder Collective managing director Eric Paley called on Boston’s investors and entrepreneurs to support state Senate Bill 178, an act to curb what these patent trolls can do. So far, Paley’s change.org petition has just 93 supporters, but his open letter lists founders and executives from a few dozen of the most well-known technology companies in Massachusetts.