Should Inventors Take Responsibility When Their Patents End Up In Troll Suits?
from the perhaps-not...-but... dept
As with many troll patents, the troll company has zero relationship with the actual inventor on the patents. The author of the article, Gregory Thomas, tracked down the inventor on those last two patents, one Jonathan Streitzel, an entrepreneur and inventor. When asked about these lawsuits, Streitzel pointed out:
“I don’t know the details, I just invent shit.”And, to be clear, this is a perfectly reasonable response. At some point he sold off the patents. Neither Streitzel nor his attorney are willing to talk about the details, since apparently there was some sort of "confidentiality agreement," which is all too standard in selling patents to trolling operations these days. But, at some point, should the inventors at least take on some responsibility if their patents are being used to shake down companies and stifle innovation?
There's obviously no legal responsibility. But it does make me wonder if there's an ethical issue. We hear all the time from entrepreneurs who go out and patent things because they feel they have to: either some of their investors insist that they need patents or they do so to start stockpiling a defensive patent portfolio in case some practicing entity hits them with a patent lawsuit. They all seem to admit that it's a "necessary evil," and say that they'll never assert those patents themselves. But... at some point, the patents get sold. Often a company fails and the patents are a remaining asset. Or it just becomes too lucrative to not sell the patents.
And, while it's not clear if that happened in the situation above with Strietzel, we hear all the time about entrepreneurs who unwillingly got patents, only to later discover those patents were being used in trolling suits. Should those inventors speak up?