re: Microsoft, Skype Patent Case: Big Target
Thanks for the comment, Terabyte Net (and for some of your tablet/ PC comments over the last few weeks-- I haven't had a chance to reply to all of them, but I appreciate the contributions you've added to the conversations).
Yeah, I find it troubling that so many "everyone thinks of that" ideas are awarded patents. Market success is almost always driven by execution, not by so-broad-they-include-everything concepts. When we value the product that executes best, everyone wins; businesses work harder to make the best product, and consumers benefit from the competition. When we value "whoever filed a vague idea first," it stops others from innovating and allows the patent-holder to sit back and grow fat while contributing nothing of value.
To be fair, Berman insisted that though the complaints are broadly-worded, CopyTele's IP nonetheless describes specific and patent-worthy technologies. Berman said CopyTele is prepared to go to court if it needs to, and
several sources (Seeking Alpha, for example), praise him as a leading
patent attorney. So I guess we'll see what Microsoft does. When I contacted them for this story, they issued a predictable reply: "No comment."
But I concur with your general sentiment; so many companies get bullied into settling just to avoid court costs, I wouldn't mind seeing a major player (assuming the circumstances warrant it) pulverize a patent troll. But some of the trolling is, as President Obama stated, essentially extortion. It stinks that some litigants settle merit-less cases just because the threat of court costs are so high. I did a few interviews last year for a patent story that we didn't end up doing, and literally every lawyer or law professor with whom I spoke was critical of the current system.
I'm also pretty suspicious of the notion that patent enforcement firms are helpful to small businesses. Sure, in theory, they can help a little guy stand up to a thieving big guy. But the Internet Age has meant, among other things, that having a great idea is enough to start a something big. If patent trolling isn't reigned in, that won't be the case; you'll need not only a great idea but also a ton of money for lawyers. To me, that sounds like a system that mostly reinforces existing power structures.