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May 6, 2006

Trolls, Toads & Rats

Some weekend rambling about patent trolls, toads and rats, beginning with patent troll James Fergason, aiming to help other patent trolls. Way to go James.

Fergason has over 35 patents related to LCD displays. Upon receiving the annual $500,000 MIT-Lemelson prize this week, Fergason announced that he would donate the money to help individual inventors from being steamrolled by large corporate patent infringers. According to Fergason: "I think that what they (large companies) want to do is get something for nothing. In most cases, the defendant has a lot of opportunities to prove they aren't infringing."

Large high-tech corporate patent infringers turn into crybabies, often pouting before Congress, painting themselves as victims of the patent system, because individual inventors and small patent-owning companies try to make them take licenses for infringing their patents. The crybabies don't bother to mention their regular cross-license patent deals, or knock-down-drag-out fights between corporate competitors, as something to be concerned about. And because of the noise the corporations make, the mainstream press, which are corporate toads, and always hungry for drama, pile in, making the same noises, wailing for patent reform. Congress, itself a humongous corporate toad, listens sympathetically, and makes its own noises, but thankfully does nothing.

Meanwhile, it's given Patent Commissioner John Doll a nervous tic, causing him to spew silly proposals to jerk around patent prosecutors, ignoring the real problem with the patent office, which is competent but poorly paid patent examiners leaving willy-nilly like rats on a sinking ship. More than anything, turnover is killing patent quality.

As an anonymous patent examiner wrote in a comment in The Patent Prospector a couple of weeks ago:

The current problem which the PTO fails to ever address is the massive attrition here. Hiring new inexperienced examiners which may bail soon after they start, rather than holding onto experienced staff. Instead of better working conditions, the logic is to squeeze more productivity and hours from the existing staff, thereby leading to attrition. Now they're trying to stem the tide by hoisting patent reform on the outside and bringing in herds of newbies, although few will stick around after training.

Case in point, most of my art unit, myself included, will be jumping ship by the end of the year to law firms or defense contractors. Why work 55 hour weeks for the government at $60K when the private sector pays for that kind of production commitment.

Adios Doll.

Posted by Patent Hawk at May 6, 2006 12:12 AM | The Patent System


While I agree with the bulk of your comments I am a bit put out over the characterization of James Fergason as a troll. Inventors only morph into so called "patent trolls" after they have been abused by Patent Pirates. No inventor likes litigation but Patent Pirates leave us with no choice because they lie, cheat, and steal at every turn. And now we have found that a coalition of eight to twelve Patent Pirates has compounded that sin by banding together with each contributing a quarter of a million dollars funding a massive disinformation campaign designed to paint their victims as the bad parties. PIAUSA.org has received credible information that Intel, Micron, Dell, RIM (Blackberry), and others are behind this disinformation campaign. The fact that most inventors who produce inventions of value are brutalized and raped by Patent Pirates is a disgrace and it is most certainly detrimental to America's collective economic well being.

Ronald J Riley, President -
Professional Inventors Alliance -
www.PIAUSA.org -
RJR (at) PIAUSA.org -
Change "at" to @ -
RJR Direct # (202) 318-1595

Posted by: Ronald J Riley at May 14, 2006 10:08 AM

Dear Mr. Riley:

If taking the term "patent troll" as the pejorative it is commonly used as, you should be put out. I meant attributing James Fergason as a patent troll affectionately. Anyone who has read The Patent Prospector for a while knows that I am fully supportive of inventors rights. My apology for not being clearer in my waggish use of patent troll.

Your comments shed important light on the subject you addressed. For more about this subject, I refer to you to the posting: Patent Pejorative. I like your term "patent pirate," and myself adopt it. Thanks.

Gary Odom aka Patent Hawk

Posted by: Patent Hawk at May 14, 2006 11:22 AM

From the context of the article I recognized your likely intent but I was concerned that James Fergason would see that line and stop there. Like most inventors who produce economically valuable inventions Fergason has been profoundly impacted by the conduct of disreputable companies.

Those same companies have hijacked the whole legislative process. It now appears that no patent legislation can be pursued without such being held hostage by companies whose business model is to take others property. These companies have one and only one goal, and that is to eviscerate the patent system.

But I am hopeful that some good may come of this situation.

You may or may not be aware that recently deceased former patent commissioner Don Banner was the catalyst which led to independent inventors like myself becoming politically active. A decade ago Don became a mentor and a good friend. So it was appropriate that the reception after Don's memorial service last month served in facilitating expanding collaboration between inventors and others with a vested interest in a functional patent system.

Don's advice was foremost in my mind when I founded and structured the Alliance for American Innovation, under which the Professional Inventors Alliance operates. For the last decade inventors have been at odds with a multitude of older organizations who operate on behalf of the biggest companies.

As a result of the conduct of patent pirates, the most extreme and notorious patent thieves arrogance in their dealings with the IP community we are now seeing shifting alliances. Independent inventors and large companies who value patents have a common enemy. This is driving collaboration which I am hopeful will lead to all the current deform legislation being killed and all of our efforts being directed towards fixing the patent office. There are no serious problems with the patent system. The underlying patent system is not broken, but the patent office is. I sincerely believe that if we first address the problems in the patent office that most of the problems we have in the intellectual property arena will be fixed.

Over the last six months there have been backchannel communications between PIAUSA.org and a number of other organizations. The scope of those communications have broadened. Today PIAUSA is reaching out to IPO, AIPLA, and many other organizations. In addition we have developed surprising and unusual alliances with other groups. Last week I submitted a proposal to AIPLA which I believe can fix patent pendency problems without the destructive rules changes which the USPTO have been promoting. In addition PIAUSA is looking at fixing the problem of the USPTO being inappropriately influenced by the patent pirates. I believe that if all who have a stake in the patent system devote our resources to stopping fee diversion and addressing morale, retention, raising staffing levels, politicization, and mismanagement problems which are the root of many of the problems with the patent system we can collectively put the patent process back on track. --

Ronald J Riley, President - Professional Inventors Alliance - www.PIAUSA.org - RJR (at) PIAUSA.org - Change "at" to @ - RJR Direct # (202) 318-1595

Posted by: Ronald J Riley at May 14, 2006 2:12 PM

Thanks to Douglas Sorocco [http://www.rethinkip.com/archives/_and_tell_us_how_you_really_feel.html] for the toads photo.

Another late-night rant that caused a stir, and hopefully raised questions about what really needs to be done to improve patent quality, and protect inventors rights, thanks to comments from Ronald Riley.

Posted by: Patent Hawk at May 16, 2006 10:38 PM

Your comments have been very helpful. I do not believe in "patent pirates" as does Ronald J. Riley, however, I've had the experience of having my patent circumvented. These big companies don't need to "pirate" anything - they can just design around you patent and they win. Thank you.

Posted by: Appleblossom at June 16, 2008 12:10 PM