NPR has a great story about software patents and how they’re abused especially by one firm that sues and demands payments from innovators. The story describes the business model of Intellectual Ventures, a firm whose only purpose is to accumulate patents and demand fees from anybody that is trying to bring a product to the market.
The company has received about 1,000 patents on stuff it’s come up with at the lab; it’s purchased roughly 30,000 patents from other people. In fact, nothing that’s come out of this lab — not the mosquito zapper, not the nuclear technology — has made it into commercial use.
Intellectual Ventures is the company behind Lodsys, the company suing independent iPhone app developers for a silly patent violation. Lodsys has no employees, it’s not making any product, it’s not producing any innovation. It sues people that create jobs and deliver products.
Did you think that patents were introduced to foster innovation? To give an incentive for inventors to bring new products to the society and solve problems? Think again. Companies like Intellectual Ventures are just a problem for startups and innovators. Venture investor Chris Sacca even said to NPR reporters that these trolls remind him of “a mafia-style shakedown, where someone comes in the front door of your building and says, ‘It would be a shame if this place burnt down. I know the neighborhood really well and I can make sure that doesn’t happen.'”. The FSFE raised this issue in Europe many years ago. The US patent system needs to be reformed, now.