How big of an issue are patent trolls to the average startup?

post by ChristianKl · 2020-07-16T11:31:05.934Z · score: 12 (3 votes) · LW · GW · No comments

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There are many individual stories about patent trolls being problematic, but I have a hard time estimating how big of an effect their activity happens to be overall. Can someone point me to guide analysis of the problem overall that estimates their impact?

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answer by Dagon · 2020-07-16T14:16:59.671Z · score: 5 (3 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

The average startup is a restaurant or small service business. Patent trolls don't bother them.

Tech-unicorn-wannabe startups generally don't get bothered until they're well-funded, and that funding usually comes with advice and connections to legal teams, which mitigates the problem most of the time.

For companies in businesses that are patent-heavy, it's more of an expense and nudge toward conformity (in corporate, legal, and finance setup) than a showstopper.

answer by df fd · 2020-07-16T12:36:07.727Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Paul graham did one 2006

http://www.paulgraham.com/softwarepatents.html

comment by ChristianKl · 2020-07-16T13:48:20.293Z · score: 5 (3 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

In the article Graham says:

Patent trolls seem to have caught big companies by surprise. In the last couple years they've extracted hundreds of millions of dollars from them. Patent trolls are hard to fight precisely because they create nothing. Big companies are safe from being sued by other big companies because they can threaten a counter-suit. But because patent trolls don't make anything, there's nothing they can be sued for. I predict this loophole will get closed fairly quickly, at least by legal standards. It's clearly an abuse of the system, and the victims are powerful.

I'm not aware of anything effective having been done that prevented the patent troll loophole. What actually happened with it in the last 14 years if the problem grew over that timeframe?

comment by Dagon · 2020-07-16T15:43:19.334Z · score: 9 (5 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

(not an expert, but thanks for the prompt to actually google a bit.) Turns out there have been a number of changes in the recent decade. Primarily https://www.eff.org/alice and a few other recent US Supreme Court cases that made it easier to defend against bogus patents, and reduced barriers to recoup legal expenses if the claim fails. From what I can tell, trolling isn't gone, but it's less egregious than it was in 2006.

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