Newspaper article Roll Call

Time to Drain the Patent Troll Swamp in East Texas | Commentary

Newspaper article Roll Call

Time to Drain the Patent Troll Swamp in East Texas | Commentary

Article excerpt

By Chuck Muth

In case you missed the memo, trolls are real ... and a certain species of them lives in Texas.

According to Lise Lunge-Larsen, author of "The Troll with No Heart in His Body," "trolls are some of lore's most fascinating and varied creatures."

"Some live under bridges, others deep inside caves," Lunge- Larsen writes. "They can carry their heads under their arms or hide their hearts inside wells. They can walk across oceans and fly over mountains. Trees and shrubs may grow from their heads, and their noses can be long enough to stir soup. There are troll hags, troll daughters, and elderly, shrunken trolls. Old or young, they are quarrelsome, ugly, and boastful."

The Texas trolls, however, don't look anything at all like Lunge- Larsen's trolls. The Texas trolls wear suits and ties and have cellphones, iPads and laptops. And they really hate being called trolls. They prefer "Patent Assertion Entities."

What these ugly, quarrelsome and boastful creatures do is claim to own a patent on some obscure aspect of technology -- such as online ordering and digital menu boards -- and then threaten to sue you if you don't pay them a "licensing fee."

It's an old-fashioned extortion racket perfected by the mafia in days gone by. Pay a "protection" fee for your business or risk suffering an "accident."

In this case, unless the unsuspecting victim pays the fee, he's likely to get nailed with a lawsuit that will cost more to defend in court -- often stretching into the millions of dollars -- than to just pay the troll ... er, Patent Assertion Entity ... to make him go away.

Federal law presently allows patent lawsuits to be filed virtually anywhere in the United States, which means the predators can live in one place but file their lawsuits in venues where the courts and juries are friendliest.

Which brings us to why you usually find these trolls ... er, Patent Assertion Entities ... in East Texas.

In the old days, their primary habitat was the marshlands of Delaware. But Delaware began making life a bit more difficult for Patent Assertion ... oh, the heck with it, patent trolls. So the trolls began migrating to East Texas.

In fact, in 2000 East Texas ranked 35th in the nation in patent litigation cases. …

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