EFF calls for war on patent trolls

Civil rights group the EFF is whipping up a mob armed with pitchforks and torches to purge patent trolls from under the bridges of the IT industry.

The EFF’s mob includes a rabid priest, the Application Developers Alliance, Ask Patents, Engelberg Centre on Innovation Law & Policy at NYU School of Law, Engine Advocacy, Public Knowledge, PUBPAT, and the Samuelson Law, Technology and Public Policy Clinic at Berkeley Law. We made the bit about the rabid priest up.

In a statement, the outfit said it was leading a group of organisations and law schools to launch a new online resource called Trolling Effects.

The big idea is that it will crowdsource data, including demand letters, with the goal of enabling people to tell patent trolls to go forth and multiply.

EFF Activist Adi Kamdar said patent trolls will no longer be able to hide under a cloak of legal darkness.

“Trolling Effects will shine a light on companies that abuse the patent system to shake down innovators,” Kamdar said.

Patent trolls use the threat of expensive and lengthy patent litigation to extort settlements from innovators large and small. Since the majority of these threats never become lawsuits, most of the threatening letters never show up in public dockets.

Trolling Effects aims to provide transparency and allow demand-letter recipients to post the documents online, find letters received by others, and research who is really behind the threats.

The site also features comprehensive guides to the patent system and a blueprint for patent reform. Journalists, academics, and policy makers will find the site a resource for researching the patent system.

Kamdar said there was a difference between a company that asserts their patents in order to protect a product and a company that does so solely to extort money through threats of litigation.

Since there is a chance that the claim you’ve received is legitimate, Trolling Effects will come in handy.

“You can search our database by sender or patent number to see if there have been any claims similar to yours. Trolls distribute their patents among a network of shell companies in order to deliberately make it difficult to track who owns what,” he said.