Fark's Drew Curtis Explains How To Beat A Patent Troll (And Live To Tell The Tale)
from the don't-negotiate-with-terrorists dept
A few years ago, we wrote about a patent troll known as Gooseberry Natural Resources LLC who claimed to hold a patent (US Patent 6,370,535) which it believed broadly covered putting press releases online. It then sued a ton of companies, including Fark, Reddit, Slashdot, Digg, TechCrunch and others. While most of the companies played into Gooseberry’s hands and “settled” along with the standard non-disclosure agreement (NDA), we pointed out that Drew Curtis at Fark stood his ground, and got Gooseberry to settle for nothing and (even better) to agree to no NDA — meaning he’d be free to talk about it. This is important, because trolls rely on claims that they “settled” with others to insist that other companies recognize the validity of their patent. This isn’t true. Many (perhaps most) companies settle because even if you were to win, it’s usually cheaper to settle than to go through with the lawsuit.
Of course, unburdened by an NDA, Drew is making sure lots of people know what happened, and he recently did a TED talk in which he explains how he won, including some key suggestions for others in his shoes:
- Don’t fight the patent, fight the infringement. Basically: overturning a bogus patent is crazy expensive and takes forever. It’s generally much easier to show you didn’t infringe — yes, even if the patent is ridiculous. This is a problem with patent law today, but it’s not one that anyone seems interested in fixing.
- Make it clear from the beginning that you have no money, or you’d much rather spend it on your own lawyers fighting this than giving it to the troll: the law firms that represent trolls almost always work on a contingency basis, meaning they only get paid if money comes through from the people they’re suing. If that seems unlikely, the lawyers are much less interested in fighting, and are happier to “settle” often for little or no money.
- Let them know you’ll make the process as annoying and as painful as possible: Basically flip the patent troll strategy back on the trolls themselves. Remember, the lawyers are on a contingency basis. Why bother with the annoying small company when they can be shaking down big companies who already have budgets set aside to settle such bogus lawsuits.
It’s good to see Drew continuing to speak out about this and spread the lessons of his experience.