Drew Curtis: How I beat a patent troll

Drew Curtis is the founder and administrator of Fark.com and recently gave a TED Talk where he expressly identifies patent trolls as “terrorists.” His solution – “don’t negotiate with terrorists.” According to Curtis, “patent trolls have done more damage to the United States economy than any domestic or foreign terrorist organization in history, every year.” The pejorative name calling needed to shift because it turns out that every kid wants to grow up to be a pirate.

36 thoughts on “Drew Curtis: How I beat a patent troll

  1. It’s big government that creates and enforces the rules for free market competition. Never forget that.

    And no one has a monopoly on innovation. Every man, woman, and child is free to design around any patent, and out think, out create, the competition.

  2. “pro socialist leaning groups that have an anti patent agenda”

    You’re right. A monopoly that minimizes free market competition for an arbitrary period of 20 yrs, and is created and enforced by big government is as capitalist as it gets.

  3. Mr Curtis, you complain about inventors taking something that is already being done and patenting it for an emerging technology.

    Which begs the question, what is wrong with this exactly?

    I will tell you what.


    Indeed it is what is right!

    Our patent system, indeed the very foundation of our capitalist economy is driven by taking what is known and improving it.

    That innovative new uses for known processes are being facilitated with “emerging” technology is a plus, not a detriment to our society.

    What “use” is any technology, product, or business to anyone without a process to actually “use” it?

    Indeed it is the Constitutional mandate to Congress is to promote the progress of the useful arts!

    My advice to you Mr. Curtis is rather than riding on the coat tails of the innovators that have come before you, to start innovating for yourself.

    Then you may file for a patent. Of course if you don’t believe it patents then simply give your ideas away.

    Either way society will benefit. But what is not helpful is to go on an anti patent tirade that retards the progress of the useful arts!

  4. Mr. Curtis :

    With all due respect, your speech is nothing more than Anti Patent Propaganda. It panders to the ignorance of the general population about patent laws and the pro socialist leaning groups that have an anti patent agenda.

    The first thing you must learn Mr. Curtis is you can’t get a patent on ideas like:

    Sending emails on the internet, phone calls on the internet, video listing for TV shows, and radio for cell phones.

    Such concepts are the seeds for inventions but in order to become patent eligible subject matter, each require an application and integration into a process as whole, that produce an objectively measurable guaranteed result,

    I notice you did not stand up and present a slide of the patent claims simply stating.

    “I claim a patent on sending press releases with email.”

    But yet this is the misleading information you want your audience to believe fact!

    If you bothered to educate yourself before speaking you would also know that the Supreme Court has ruled there is no machine requirement for inventions to receive a patent. And likewise there is no technology requirement. So your statement about the problem being the “mechanism is obscure” has no relevance to the validity of any patent.

    Now if your true complaint, as it seems to be, is that you and others were already practicing the invention before the inventor filed a patent, then you simply need to prove that, and your patent law suit goes way.

    But indeed, if you are infringing on a patent, then you need to pay royalties. So please stop whining about it.

    Finally, while the patent system is always in need of improvement, as is any system, the only dysfunction seems to be your ability to compete and perform in a society that rewards the innovation of Actual Inventors with patents.

  5. I’ll take the blind ideologue to task any day.

    Careful, AToas, lest you incur the invocation of those who would wish you just shut-up and move forward.

    The blind ideaologues have sanctuary here.

  6. Get behind what, the fact that they can delude themselves into thinking that the current rule of law don’t apply to them? The economics of the system disfavor throwing money into litigation to prove your ideological purity. I’ll take the blind ideologue to task any day. Being emotionally invested in ideology is a guaranteed road to financial ruin for a business and a surefire way to get corn-holed in litigation, eventually.

  7. filing and obtaining patents for no other purpose then making money off them by threatening to sue if one does not pay.

    You mean that the most prolific user of the patent system over the last X years never really had plans to put thousands of patents into actual products and only wanted to troll with them…?

    I am aghast (not).

  8. Alun, but there is a difference between obtaining a patent in the first place to protect an invention that one plans to base his business on, for example, a startup, and filing and obtaining patents for no other purpose then making money off them by threatening to sue if one does not pay.

    Because of this, I think there are companies in this country who are abusers of the patent system big-time, and yet they have credibility for some reason, not only in the courts but in Congress, so much so that their top executives become directors of the PTO; and because of this, they get to write the new patent laws to rig the system to further feather their nests.

  9. I get tired of all the labelling of NPEs as trolls, and now apparently as terrorists. If a terorist is just a freedom fighter with no air force, then a troll is just an inventor with no manufacturing plant. It’s true that some are just hoping for a settlement because they have bought up patents that ought never to have been issued, but not everyone with a bright idea can afford to, or should even have to, commercialise it themself.

  10. “engage in it because you have a “belief” that NPEs are evil is just poor business practice.”

    And a political statement. The more companies that get behind this firmly the faster change will come.

  11. An NPE with a solid read on a technology isn’t going to back down because the defendant stonewalls. Litigation is a very expensive exercise for a defendant. To engage in it because you have a “belief” that NPEs are evil is just poor business practice. Most the attorneys for NPEs work on contingent fee arrangements and therefore, while the defendant has to pay cold hard cash for representation, the attorneys for the NPE expend sweat equity. Thus, costs can rise exponentially for the defendant while remaining quite negligible for the NPE.

    This guy is living the fantasy of his own anecdote. NPEs are probably watching and laughing at him.

  12. “Couldn’t the same be said for car accidents? Heart disease? Congress? Pretty much anything?”

    Perhaps but all of those aren’t government sponsored terrorist activities like patent trolling.

    I’m surprised that this video is just now making the PO rounds, I saw it a long time ago.

  13. I saw Drew’s TED talk awhile ago and the tl;dw version is: it’s really helpful NOT TO INFRINGE. Nothing more, nothing less. Not infringing is a lot easier and cheaper to defend than if you do infringe a patent that appears invalid because then you have to, you know, do something and doing something costs money.

  14. Calling someone a terrorist for attempting to enforce parents sounds like an actionable tort to me, akin to falsely accusing someone of treason. After all, terrorism has a specific legal definition.

  15. I didn’t say the burden was on the defendant. The defendant in this case is calling the plaintiff a terrorist. So, who is the defendant in the naming calling–clearly the plaintiff. So, your post actually supports my post. Thank you.

  16. His solution – “don’t negotiate with terrorists.”

    How does he know whether someone who sues him is a terrorist? Under what circumstances should a defendant negotiate with a plaintiff? Because we generally encourage that sort of thing.

    According to Curtis, “patent trolls have done more damage to the United States economy than any domestic or foreign terrorist organization in history, every year.”

    Couldn’t the same be said for car accidents? Heart disease? Congress? Pretty much anything? Terrorists do surprisingly little actual damage to the US economy.

    The pejorative name calling needed to shift because it turns out that every kid wants to grow up to be a pirate.

    Well, yeah, but Curtis is the pirate in this situation. And lots of kids want to grow up to be terrorists, they just use other names for it. Like “soldier”, or “Jedi”, or “freedom fighter”. How many want to grow up to be trolls?

  17. The bit about terrorists is actually wrong on its own terms. The $500 billion figure is from a study by Bessen, Meurer, and Ford, and it calculated the cost from 1990-2010. The annual figure for the last four years was about $80 billion, significantly less than the cost Curtis gives for 9/11 ($123 billion).

    And of course, that’s presuming you actually buy Bessen et al’s event study methodology in the first place. See Glynn S. Lunney, Jr., On the Continuing Misuse of Event Studies: The Example of Bessen and Meurer, 16 J. Intell. Prop. L. 35 (2008) (responding to similar event studies done by Bessen and Meurer when they wrote their book Patent Failure).

  18. Are we sure that he wasn’t ripping someone else’s stuff off?

    I can’t tell you how many people I talk to that explain something great that they invented that is a copy of another invention. They probably aren’t doing it consciously.

  19. Patent trolls may buy patents cheaply from entities not actively seeking to enforce them. For example, a company may purchase hundreds of patents from a technology company forced by bankruptcy to auction its patents. The cost of defending against a patent infringement suit, as of 2004, is typically $1 million or more before trial, and $2.5 million for a complete defense, even if successful. Because the costs and risks are high, defendants may settle even non-meritorious suits they consider frivolous for several hundred thousand dollars. The uncertainty and unpredictability of the outcome of jury trials also encourages settlement.

  20. Were Ayn Rand alive today and working within the invention community, no doubt Obamite socialists would be damning her as a patent troll. Patent “trolls” are the earthworms of the patent ecosystem, turning over the soil of individual genius and exposing it to new opportunities.

  21. I still think the root problem with trolls is in obviousness and not in the fact that
    inventors may not be practicing their invention. In this case it seems obvious to distribute
    news via email.

    If someone comes up with a means for VIABLY teletransporting someone across the globe
    safely, then surely awarding him/her a patent in exchange for revealing this technology
    seems quite fair even if they can’t afford to implement their own invention.

  22. “6, you have no clue how much a troll IBM was/is.”

    Davi K is not IBM. He was their attorney so far as I’m aware. You need to know something about corporate structure to continue with this conversation.

    “lol – so is the “troll” that Mr. Curtis talks abou tin the video.”

    Ok. So what?

  23. as he was never a troll

    6, you have no clue how much a troll IBM was/is.

    He is, after all, an officer of the court.

    lol – so is the “troll” that Mr. Curtis talks abou tin the video.

  24. No, I wouldn’t call him an ex terrorist. He was an attorney to a terrorist wasn’t he? That isn’t really a terrorist per se. And if I considered him a terrorist then, he’d still be one now, so not an “ex” wouldn’t he?

    Meh, that’s all neither here nor there, he, himself, was no terrorist in so far as I’m aware, as he was never a troll.

    Although if he was, sure, I’ll roll in with you and call him that to his face. It is economic terrorism. Government sponsored. Period. I believe he’s well aware of it. He’s nobody’s fool. But, he does have carry out the lawls as written. He is, after all, an officer of the court.

    But in any event, here is another patent themed TED talk that I believe is more recent.

    link to ted.com

    I think she is a patent law prof. and she talks about the peer to patent system I think. She seems to think that peer to patent, that nobody I know of particularly uses or cares about is some sort of success. Perhaps she could address in her next talk how to get people to participate in this sort of governing she proposes.

  25. The pejorative name calling needed to shift

    That’s funny, I thought that the perjorative name calling was supposed to be like totally absent in the new Patently-O land.

    Or is it only selective perjorative name calling that was supposed to be stopped…?

    /well meaning snide commenting off

    (and in all fairness to Mr. Curtis, a motion for Rule 11 sanctions crosses my mind – perhaps that should also be suggested)

  26. It’ll be very entertaining to your lawlmakers when they figure out that they’re sponsoring domestic terrorism won’t it?

  27. Very entertaining way to express an anecdote and opinion on what could be a very lackluster (yet expensive) subject.

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