Teenage girls like to dream about adolescent pop star Justin
Bieber. Much like Justin, patent trolls might be turning into the hunky dreamboats
of swooning corporations.
According to a recent Wall Street Journal (WSJ) article, some tech corporations
are creating patent entities for the sole purpose of licensing and litigation. And
if not their own patent entities, then some are selling patents to independent,
nonpracticing entities (i.e., patent trolls).
The article mentions Apple, Microsoft, Research In Motion,
Ericsson and Sony, which last year purchased a number of patents from Nortel's
bankruptcy. The companies then created Rockstar Consortium, which owns a
portfolio of approximately 4,000 patents related to networking, communications and internet technologies. In its March 12th press release, Rockstar said it is:
set to implement its plans to
pursue licensing agreements with companies that are harnessing its intellectual
The WSJ article underscores the 10-year maturation of the "NPE
industry," which seems to suggest the growing legitimacy of nonpracticing
entities. However, in a study cited by the Atlantic, the litigation costs of this "industry"
is set at:
$29 billion in 2011 alone, and
that's just the direct legal costs, not even counting "various indirect
costs ... such as diversion of resources, delays in new products, and loss of
market share." The loss for the economy overall -- in terms of
immeasurable opportunities -- is surely far greater.
Here, nonpracticing entities are described as "predatory" and
Whatever the state of the "industry," the debate still remains: Are nonpracticing entities ugly patent trolls, or are they trendy patent Biebers?
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