Patent infringement claims run aplenty and we hear lots of non-practicing entities caught up in lawsuits against thousands of small to large-scale businesses each day. One can only wonder if these trolls are doing it for a living, especially when it’s easier and less costly to come up with a settlement than end up in a legal battle. You may be wondering why I’m writing this post when it doesn’t seem to be related to my business at all. The fact is that everyone in business should take the proactive step of protecting their rights, especially when it involves patents on your products and services. You don’t want to wake up one day scratching your head as you stare at that cease-and-desist letter.
Patent Trolls: From Ridiculousness to Reality
It’s all about the money. Come to think of it, these patent trolls’ real assets are those patents they have chased… and they’re winning by the millions. Some businesses have fought back real hard and yet, there are those who lost the battle. Think of it this way: You might have a great idea, product, service.. but unless you own it in black and white, there will always be those who will exploit the system and leave you pulling your hair out. While there have been talks of bringing about change to reduce the instances of patent trolling, small businesses and startups are at the front line of this raging war; they need protection badly.
The End of Innovation as We Know It
Talks abound of innovation, disruptive or not, the danger is real when businesses are forced into situations they cannot win. The burden of legal fees alone is enough to make one quit what was once a promising venture. In an ideal world, the patent system must serve as a foundation for innovation to prosper; not a money-making machine for the unscrupulous few. You think you are safe now, but if your business is dependent on intellectual property, you may find a troll puffing your house down like some bad wolf – claiming infringement and licensing fees. Believe it or not, these trolls are purely bred for one purpose: threaten lawsuits. You can always choose to fight back. Just how much are you willing to spend on that?
What Can You Do to Protect Yourself?
It’s great to see law schools teaming up with developers to educate them where legal issues are concerned, and we’ve seen law clinics sprout like mushrooms in different states. Still, these patent trolls know that it would cost you less to settle than to litigate, and they will take advantage of this. I’m no lawyer to give you legal advice; I’m just here to warn you to be ready at all times before they come knocking. It’s like a plague that when you opt to settle, more extortionists will come just to see how far you can stretch. And when you find that ridiculous letter demanding you to make things right, don’t panic. Do your research and buddy up with those who have taken arms to fight for the same cause. Don’t be scared. Don’t sign that Non-Disclosure Agreement either. Know your rights and stand strong… for reforms are on its way to making things right for real innovators and inventors out there.
** If you’re an application developer in the U.S. and you want to help stop patent trolls for good, you may join the fight with the Application Developers Alliance HERE