8th aug, 2011

Patent trolling on Dilbert

patents are getting more and more mainstream, reflected by the fact that saturdays Dilbert is a strip about patent trolls.



Some observers base their disapproval of patent enforcement by NPEs (“patent trolls”) on the reasoning that (because NPEs arguably profit from their lawsuits without contributing intellectual capital to society) such lawsuits create market inefficiency and deadweight loss. But, of course, so do many other capitalist activities, and I don’t see how NPE lawsuits are any more culpable than other profit-oriented activity. I suspect that this issue may come down to collectively determining what precisely constitutes “abuse” of the patent system, as opposed to what constitutes merely the sporting pursuit of profit. I’d like to hear some ideas on that topic.

The problem with patent trolling is that you can´t formulate a general rule sorting the bad guys from the good guys. As an example I would think it fair if an inventor asked a company to litigate his patent even though he doesn´t produce a product himself. This situation is hard to distinguish from the troll situation where a company harvests patents for litigation purposes.
An attractive way of combatting trolls would be to introduce the European principle of documentation of loss. If you don’t produce anything you can’t document a loss of profits. This will harm the lone inventor as well as the troll.

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