Patent Trolls

Lawmakers take aim at patent speculatorsSpeculator of mundane patents casts a long shadow

It's good to see that legislators are even looking into patent reform. There are several issues at play here. First, there are the trolls that buy up vague patents and sue anyone even remotely related. They know they wouldn't win a court battle, but they also know that many companies will pay them off just to go away (often $1M or so). The real problem, however, is the quality of the patents that are coming out of the patent office. The patent examiners are overworked and often not qualified. That results in patents that are often obvious or so vague that you could apply it to almost anything.

I hold a couple of patents, and I have another pending. I remember being pretty amazed at what the examiner would come back with as prior art. The first few times, the patents mentioned were not even close. It was as if the examiner just wanted to make sure we had to go through a few iterations before granting a patent (5 years later!).

This brings up the final part of the problem. It takes way too long to get a patent. In software, 5 years might as well be last century. It's impossible to know what might come back to haunt you 3-5 years down the line.

Anyone have any experiences with patent trolls?