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.”
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.