We’ve all read the news reports of patent trolls who threaten startups with bogus patent claims (without any intention of filing a patent infringement action) in order to extort settlements from those unable to pay the costs of standing up to them in court. But we also know that there are numerous cases where the dominant industry players have poach a startup’s patented technology, using the startup’s own innovation without permission and in order to muscle the upstart out of the market. Both activities are damaging, and also prove that there are bad actors on both sides of the patent equation.
Bad actors create real damage because they have turned public sentiment against innovators by labeling everyone who seeks a patent as some kind of nefarious patent troll. Meanwhile, the very same large companies that vilify patent owners are among the largest patent owners in the world. There is a disconnect of epic proportions, but at the end of the day that really doesn’t matter. Thanks to extraordinarily successful lobbying efforts and a popular press that seems to have bought the “patents are bad” mantra, innovation is suffering because startups are responsible for nearly all breakthrough innovation and job growth in the U.S. Without strong patent rights these startups cannot get off the ground, which is undoubtedly the larger objective for those large entities that decry the patents owned by others but who are so willing to spend whatever it takes to protect their own inventions.