NY Times Profiles One Of The World's Worst Patent Trolls

from the probably-a-good-time-to-downsize dept

We've covered patent troll Erich Spangenberg a few times over the years, starting with the time a court told him he needed to pay $3.8 million to DaimlerChrysler after he had signed a patent licensing agreement over some patents in one of his shell companies, transferred those patents to another shell company... and sued DaimlerChrysler once again. The NY Times now has a big profile on Spangenberg, in which he claims to be making $25 million per year, and he claims that the "mauling" that the judge gave him in that particular case (which he's still appealing) was actually good for business:
“It was a mauling,” Mr. Spangenberg said of Judge Crabb’s takedown, now under appeal. But weirdly enough, the ruling turned out to be terrific public relations.

Soon after Judge Crabb’s decision, IPNav’s phone was ringing with new business. RadioShack, Bridgestone and other companies wanted to strike a variety of deals to monetize their patents. The mauling had laid bare Mr. Spangenberg’s aggressive business techniques. IPNav soon grew from five employees to 80, most of whom are patent specialists; it currently manages about 10,000 patents
Okay, time to add RadioShack and Bridgestone to the list of companies never to do business with again. The article, by the way, approvingly mentions the "many unprintable names" that commenters right here at Techdirt have called Spangenberg.

Spangenberg tries to play the same card that all the big patent trolls now claim: that they're helping poor independent inventors get their due. The article highlights Steve Dodd from Parallel Iron, whose highly questionable patents and lawsuits we've covered a few times as well. Hearing Spangenberg and Dodd tell the story, they're just helping the little guy build a business:
“Erich saved our bacon,” said Steve Dodd, a patent holder with a client company called Parallel Iron. “We were more than $1 million in debt and I was getting ready to file for bankruptcy.”
Right. The reason he was $1 million in debt was because his business failed. Under a capitalist system, when that happens, you go out of business. You don't use highly questionable, almost certainly bogus, patents to shake down everyone for using a basic file system that they came up with entirely independently. But that's what Spangenberg and Dodd have done.

And this is the key point that is woefully lacking in so many stories about patents and patent trolls -- including in this particular profile: the fact that these cases almost never include stories of anyone actually copying someone else. Perhaps, in those rare instances, you can make an argument that a patent prevents flat-out copying that may feel unfair (whether or not it actually is is a whole different story). But, here, we're talking about Parallel Iron claiming that anyone who uses Hadoop infringes on the patent, despite the fact that Hadoop was created independently, and that when Parallel Iron tried to build an actual business, it failed. That's because what matters in business is rarely the idea, but almost always the execution. Parallel Iron couldn't execute. The idea that it gets to sue those who do is really quite ridiculous.

The rest of the profile of Spangenberg is interesting too, though I find it interesting that Spangenberg is apparently downsizing. He's apparently selling his 14,000 square foot home in Dallas (it could be yours for merely $19.5 million) and has moved into a 2,000 square foot apartment. He's also sold off all but one of the 16 cars he recently owned (including six Lamborghinis). He kept a Ferrari, however. He claims that the home and all the cars were "a combination of 'nouveau riche on steroids' and midlife crisis" that he's since decided he's outgrown. Of course, there's another possibility. With the White House coming out strongly against patent trolls, and the FTC and DOJ beginning to investigate the businesses of patent trolls, one wonders if he doesn't see the writing on the wall... Of course, perhaps he and his wife can focus on her side business of trademark trolling.


Reader Comments (rss)

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  1. This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
     
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 15th, 2013 @ 4:08pm

    Ba ** wk.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
     
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 15th, 2013 @ 4:10pm

    Back to censoring words you can't stand your critics to use, I see. LOL! Viva la resistance! Down with censoring a**holes!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 15th, 2013 @ 4:20pm

    People still shop at RadioShack? Oh... right.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 15th, 2013 @ 5:20pm

    Re:

    So AJ, when are you finally going to admit to cheating on all of your exams?

    Why won't you tell the truth?

    Too afraid of me to discuss the issue?

    YOU ARE A BRAINDEAD MORON

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5.  
    icon
    Capitalist Lion Tamer (profile), Jul 15th, 2013 @ 5:33pm

    The article, by the way, approvingly mentions the "many unprintable names" that commenters right here at Techdirt have called Spangenberg.

    And that's why I love you fuckers.

    You can offend trolls and make the Paper of Record blush, all in one comment.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6.  
    icon
    ChurchHatesTucker (profile), Jul 15th, 2013 @ 5:34pm

    “The implied ‘or else!’ oozes from this letter like lye from lutefisk,” wrote Judge Stephen L. Crocker of Federal District Court, referring to a gelatinous dish popular in Nordic countries. And Wisconsin, apparently.

    Jeebus NYT, can't you find reporters who have listened to Garrison Keeler once in their lives?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 15th, 2013 @ 6:06pm

    Re:

    Back to farmyard noises. No surprise, because that's the best argument you've got. That's the ONLY argument you've got. Which is why you spent months being a chicken instead of actually posting criticism.

    Copyright enforcement's best and brightest.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8.  
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    Ninja (profile), Jul 16th, 2013 @ 5:31am

    Re:

    Agreed. I still giggle when I read the name Spangenberg =/

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 16th, 2013 @ 6:00am

    "Okay, time to add RadioShack and Bridgestone to the list of companies never to do business with again."

    waaaaay ahead of you. Both of those companies are awful and should only have patents on "How to make products and serve customers in the worst possible way!"

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10.  
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    theDude, Jul 16th, 2013 @ 6:11am

    I cant wait

    Until this guy is exposed as the PONZI scheme he is, thats going to make a great American Greed.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11. This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
     
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    angry dude, Jul 16th, 2013 @ 12:44pm

    Same shit, different day...

    It's been years since my last visit here, but it's same shit here

    and the quality of readership went down drastically

    alas, nobody wants to give Mikey 100 mil to shut him up

    I wish someone had a patent to sue Mikey's pants off - but how can you sue a paid shill who does nothing productive ?

    Alas, we might have to live with the idiot and his shitty blog for morons for the rest of our lives

    Have a nice life, techdirt retards

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 16th, 2013 @ 11:39pm

    Re: Same shit, different day...

    You could, like, not come here? I dunno.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 17th, 2013 @ 9:07pm

    Re: Same shit, different day...

    I agree. When the readership that represents copyrights and patents has "Bawk, cluck, moo" as the best response their quality has gone down drastically.

    You're just mad that you don't have 100 million to shut him up, and you want it for free. You fucking freetard.

     

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  14.  
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    Anonymous, Nov 5th, 2013 @ 11:06am

    Marathon Patent Group (MARA)

    I take it you are not bullish on Marathon Patent Group (MARA) where Erich Spangenberg I believe is a large shareholder.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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