In recent years, American companies have faced a growing threat from patent assertion entities derisively called “patent trolls.” These often shadowy firms make money by threatening patent lawsuits rather than creating useful products. A recent study suggests that the roots of the patent trolling problem may lie with the US Patent and Trademark office—specifically with patent examiners who fail to thoroughly vet patent applications before approving them.
Playsaurus, a small Los Angeles-based game studio that makes Clicker Heroes and the upcoming Clicker Heroes 2, has recently been threatened with a lawsuit if it doesn’t pay $35,000 for a patent licensing fee to cover a patent for “electronic tokens.”
In a Thursday blog post, the CEO of Playsaurus wrote that the company that sent him the letter, GTX Corporation, is a “patent troll.” CEO Thomas Wolfley called GTX’s demands to avoid “costly litigation” over Playsaurus’ use of electronic “Rubies” in its games “meritless.”
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.