Twitter: Patent Trolls Should Bear the Financial Burden of Filing Bad Lawsuits

In a guest post on GIGA OM, Ben Lee, the legal counsel for Twitter argues that it's high time that those who want to go to war over patents – particularly those who use lawsuits as a business model as opposed to actually building anything – should have to bear the cost of litigation.

Twitter is an engineering company, and engineers like to innovate. Twitter is also well known, and, as a result, we receive patent threats and lawsuits from time to time," Lee begins his editorial. "Many of these are baseless, and our policy is to fight them with all our might. In fact, we have never agreed to pay to settle a patent suit."

"Still, even meritless lawsuits cost us money in attorney fees, and force our engineers to spend time with lawyers rather than improving our product," he continues. For example, we recently won a case regarding U.S. Patent No. 6,408,309, entitled 'Method and System for Creating an Interactive Virtual Community of Famous People.' After a trial before a jury, we managed to prove that we didn’t infringe and that the asserted claims from the patent were invalid. This patent was 'invented' by a patent lawyer, Dinesh Agarwal. According to his own testimony at trial, Mr. Agarwal had no computer science or programming background, and he thought up the whole idea while he was shopping for groceries."

Lee goes on to point out that many patents issued by the patent office have "a near-zero cost-of-invention" and that the whole system needs a serious revamp. He also points out that the average patent lawsuit costs anywhere from $900,000 to $6,000,000 to defend, according to data from the American Intellectual Property Law Association (AIPLA)’s 2011 survey.

He closes by mentioning that a bill was introduced in Congress several weeks ago called the SHIELD Act. The bill would put the financial responsibility of filing such a lawsuit on the patent trolls themselves.

You can read the entire editorial here.

Source: GIGA OM

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  1. 0
    DorthLous says:

    I agree with an above poster that fixing the patent system itself is more than likely the way to prevent the trolls. This patent should never have been granted in the first place. Patent last for way too long. The idea of the patent is just to give the creator a shot at recouping expanses of research and making a name in the business first. Then it's supposed to be open to all to create a somewhat fair playing field. But right now, people keep arguing that the patents should be longer to leave time for the company to make a profit. That's completely off the original idea.

  2. 0
    Neeneko says:

    Heh, somehow I doubt bringing the tax code to determine costs would make anything simpler.

    At the end of the day, this is a really hard thing to balance.  Stopping trolls (which is a social label for people we do not like, not a legal concept) without making things harder on legitimate complaints is not easy since the two goals are close to mutually exclusive.  There are no good hard tests for determining what is fair that do not have other consequences.

    For instance, often in games and tech we talk about 'if you do not produce anything, you should not be allowed to sue', but that would cut out entire companies where research and lisencing is there buisness.  This would include not only universities, but also companies that develop logic blocks for chips.  For instance all those ARM based Android phones so many techies love are built around that model,  ARM doesn't make chips, they design logic blocks then lisence them to companies that do make chips.  A simple 'you must make stuff' rule would wipe ARM out and take its whole ecosystem with it.

  3. 0
    MechaTama31 says:

    I think the idea is that this should apply when the case is obviously and completely without merit, not when there is a genuine legal issue at hand.

  4. 0
    ZippyDSMlee says:

    The trick here would be convincing a lawyer to do it without taking most of it to create enough paper work to make it look like there is a real issue at hand.

    That would stop most of it.


    For the rest of it, make it so the IP itself has a 10K limit, so no matter who brings it up it will be forced to higher courts after it hits 10K.


    Also you can have it as so the higher court has an out, if both parties agree to pay their own fees, but only if both agree.

    And for a safety net if someone in a months time frame makes less than 5% (2500=120 /mo ,25K=1200 /mo ,250K=-12K /mo a month) of the total combined legal fees they do not have to pay the others legal fee.Might even roll in the monetary claims just to keep the big boys from harassing smaller targets.


  5. 0
    Neeneko says:

    In that case, companies would just have to decide if they will make more then 10k off stealing someone's IP, if they will then they can just accept the small claims judgment and move on with impunity.

  6. 0
    Neeneko says:

    Yeah.. our legal system already has a 'how much justice can you afford' theme to it,.. this type of penalty for general lawsuits (as opposed to vexatious) would just put redress even further outside the reach of many people.. and would probably do little to stop actual patent trolls since they are often well funded and can afford the risk.

  7. 0
    Craig R. says:

    "For example, we recently won a case regarding U.S. Patent No. 6,408,309, entitled 'Method and System for Creating an Interactive Virtual Community of Famous People.'"

    Of course, the real question is: why the @#$% were they able to patent this in the first place?

    No stupid patents, no stupid patent trolls.

  8. 0
    DorthLous says:

    I can see this backfire where poorer people will never go to court by fear of losing. Lot of people will agree that courts are far from impartial and that more money buys better lawyer. Imagine if on top of that you have the burden on a loss.

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