Is Paul Allen's Patent Madness Really An Attempt To Show The Madness Of Patents?

from the seems-unlikely dept

Last week, in writing about Paul Allen’s decision to sue (nearly) every big tech company south of Seattle (notably absent: Microsoft and Amazon), I had seen a few people suggest that maybe Allen was doing this to prove how ridiculous the patent system is. Larry Downes is now exploring that option in a blog post on his site:

Maybe Allen is not the world’s most famous patent troll. Maybe he’s out to become the world’s most famous patent reformer. Maybe he doesn’t want so much to win as to publicize how dangerous his patents are.

Perhaps in asserting these patents, with their potential to unsettle so much of what is taken as settled business practices in the digital economy, he hopes to force leading tech companies and Congress to acknowledge that the system is broken and fix it. If he wins, or even if he just wears down the other side, perhaps he’ll demand not financial tribute but actual reform of a system that gives patent holders like him the power to disrupt digital life.

I don’t buy it. There are, obviously, lots of ways to go about pushing for patent reform, but dragging a bunch of companies and yourself through the court system seems like one of the least effective ways to go about doing so. Even if it does call attention to ridiculous patents and how they’re used to punish companies who actually innovate, the message is so likely to be lost that I would imagine the chance for any such strategy to succeed is outweighed by the far greater likelihood that the strategy will backfire and actually be seen as a reason to support patents.

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Comments on “Is Paul Allen's Patent Madness Really An Attempt To Show The Madness Of Patents?”

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23 Comments
cc (profile) says:

The same argument could be made for Oracle using its Java patents to sue Google for Android. Now, a good conspiracy theorist would see the timing of the two as too good to be a coincidence — maybe they are working together to get rid of software patents!

I personally think that’s BS and there’s just a lot of unnecessary lawyering going on in the world.

Jose_X says:

Re: Re:

It now seems almost obvious to me that the opportunist “Microsoft” (aka a group of related savvy businessmen) is trying to leverage trolling, which hurts producers, as much as possible against their competitors. If trolling gets a bad name and is abolished, Microsoft and friends would have gotten the last and largest drinks (get it while the going’s good). Afterward, they can forget about their Achilles heal, patent trolls, and they would be in a great position since they produce so many patents and have so much weight to throw around when calling companies up to discuss cross-licensing. Time is of essence also because of the SCOTUS factor and because of the pressure (to their wonderfully yielding monopolistic proprietary software businesses) from open source and supporting companies.

Zacqary Adam Green (profile) says:

But wait! Hanlon’s razor would suggest that he is, in fact, interested in patent reform, but has no idea how stupid this strategy is!

But then Occam’s razor suggests that such an explanation is far too complex, so maybe he’s just a patent troll.

But then we’re assuming malice, which comes into conflict with Hanlon’s razor.

My head hurts. Probably because it’s full of razors.

Peter says:

Uh no...

If he was going for patent reform he would not have refrained from suing his friends at Microsoft and Amazon. That is what you do when you are actually going for the dollars, but don’t want to harm your buddies/stock holdings.

This is simply a cash grab by an a business dilettante who has failed at nearly everything since leaving Microsoft.

He has lost a pile of cash. This looks like a straight forward cash grab.

cpp says:

yeah

Sue congressmen for stealing the “web site for political use” invention, senators for swiping your Email in the course of communicating with someone surfing your site”.. just sue everyone who matters. The only reason we have the atrocity that we do, is because no one knows the extent to which the system is broken. I’m always met with surprise when I explain what’s been patented. Most people still think a patent represents an invention… a quick trip to Google and they usually just drop jaw. So, the one thing that we, the reformists have failed to do, is make the business community at large aware of the gross injustice of the patent system as it stands today. If that’s his strategy, it’s brilliant. If it’s not, hes a fool.

Anonymous Coward says:

It could be not his intended goals, but unintentional results. One gotta remember that companies think with their pockets, and if there’s enough money being poured down the lawyers to keep all this madness in control…

Honestly, let the patent nuclear armageddon come. Maybe that will finally make everyone who says “patents = innovation” shut up.

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