Last year, we wrote about how Twitter won
a ridiculous lawsuit against a patent lawyer, Dinesh Agarwal, who claimed to have patented "A method system for creating an interactive virtual community of famous people," also known as US Patent 6,408,309
. The jury pointed out that Twitter didn't actually appear to infringe at all, which is all too common in these kinds of cases. At the very least, it was nice to see Twitter willing to fight this out. The way patent trolling works is that the trolls usually make it much cheaper to just pay them to go away than to actually fight it out in court. Twitter's Ben Lee is now writing about how ridiculous this is
, and suggesting that it's time to fix this aspect of the system:
According to the American Intellectual Property Law Association (AIPLA)’s 2011 survey, an average patent lawsuit costs between $900,000 to $6,000,000 to defend. In the last month and a half alone, Twitter has received three new patent troll lawsuits. The law currently does not allow us to recover the millions of dollars in fees we spent to defend ourselves — nor does it compensate us for the time spent by many Twitter employees who worked on the case. The law only allows us to ask for certain types of minor fees, which is why the court was only able to order this particular patent troll to pay us $10,447.85.
Lee is writing more specifically to try to drum up support for the SHIELD Act
, which we wrote about earlier this month, which would allow companies to ask for their attorneys' fees to be paid in cases, like this one, where there was no merit to the lawsuit at all. That bill has started to pick up some attention, and while it's doubtful it's going to go anywhere this year, hopefully with the new Congress next year there will be sufficient interest in at least fixing this one small part of the patent system. I've still yet to see any reasonable explanation for why this bill is a problem, since it would only impact completely bogus patent lawsuits.