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back to article Judge says there's no such thing as a 'Patent Troll'

A Californian judge has barred Apple from describing a litigant as a “patent troll”, a “bandit” or a “privateer”. Apple is facing off with GPNE Corp, a Hawaii-based outfit that says “Our goal is to position our core patented technologies as some of the world’s most predominant MAC layer protocols.” The two have locked horns for …

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There we are, proof positive that judges ARE paid off by patent trolls.

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Lots of articles/documents in Groklaw about her involvement in the cases that were covered by the site.

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And

9 out of 10 jury members know the term patent troll but probably have no idea what a non-practicing entity is...

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Anonymous Coward

So what can we call these companies that produce nothing, invest nothing, design nothing yet insist they are owed money for the use of something that someone else has designed, manufactured or invested in?

Crooks? Thieves? Robbers? Highwaymen? Criminals?

Maybe criminals has an air of authenticity.

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Re: And (tell it to the judge)

Can we tell the Judge there is no such thing as "non-practicing entity"?

The adjective is derived from a verb, hence it would be "non-practising entity..."

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So what can we call these companies

Warty-nosed goat-chomping bridge lurkers?

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Re: So what can we call these companies

How about "productally challenged organisation"?

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Re: And

@big_D

"9 out of 10 jury members know the term patent troll but probably have no idea what a non-practicing entity is..."

Which is am excellent reason why it shouldn't be allowed.

It is a pejorative term but is ill-defined. Is a Patent Troll simply a patent holder that doesn't make anything? What about inventors then? Is it one that buys other people's patents? That obviously won't work as many companies do that. Is it one that sues other people for patent infringement? Again, won't work.

Perhaps when combined in just the right proportions and viewed at in the right light, a 'patent troll' is revealed?

The point is that using the term 'patent troll' adds nothing from a legal perspective. As the law stands, there is nothing illegal about the practices that get a company that epithet. Either the patent is valid or it is not and either the defendant is infringing or it isn't. Those are the relevant questions that need to be answered.

It's hard to define - with legal rigour - what a 'patent troll' is exactly and it's harder still to figure out what to do about them. It seems like an easy problem but patents are big business and represent a serious asset. With the way the technology is at the moment, companies are snarfed up left, right and centre at alarming pace and the reason is the strong desire to gain as much IP as possible.

This hunger for IP sees billions of dollars flow through the economy, as VCs invest big in start-ups which are then able to hire staff and pay rent on larger office to house them and buy equipment and so on.

How do you de-claw the 'patent trolls' without risking an entire industry?

In an ideal world, we could invalidate a significant fraction of existing patents as overly broad, overly obvious or clearly covered by prior art. Another significant fraction could be taken care of by eliminating or very tightly restricting software patents.

But, while I freely admit that the resulting system would be far better, it's the transition that is difficult. Not conceptually of course, but as a matter of practicality, not to mention actually finding politicians brave enough* to makes these much-needed changes - people like Lyndon Johnson who pushed ahead with what was best for the country despite acknowledging that it would damage his party**.

Until then - until there is a workable, testable, legal definition of exactly what a 'patent troll' is and is not, with a corresponding legal remedy - it's prejudicial to bandy about the term in front of a jury.

* - Or far enough away from the deep pockets of those who stand to lose out.

** - Not that Johnson was a saint - his position on Vietnam was not a high point in American history.

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Pint

If someone invented a device to extract kilowatts of electricity from the vacuum...

They might get all the applicable patents, set up a licensing company, hire a legal team to enforce the rights, and then sit back to become the world's first trillionaire.

This is the sort of baby that shouldn't be tossed out with the Patent Troll bathwater.

--

That said, perhaps I'd be in favour of captial punishment for the losing side of any patent case. It would certainly cool off the frivolous lawsuits.

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Re: If someone invented a device to extract kilowatts of electricity from the vacuum...

@JeffyPoooh

And this is one of the problems - how do you clamp down on practices that are detrimental to the goals of the system without accidentally catching others who are adding value?

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We can call them anything we like. It's the pre-trial bias that the judge is trying to limit (pointlessly, in my view, but then I'm not a judge).

(Likewise, the headline grossly misstates the situation, but that's par for course here.)

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Re: If someone invented a device to extract kilowatts of electricity from the vacuum...

It is not entirely clear how the activity described is beneficial to the public. Public benefit would be maximized by fully disclosing the patent to everyone for immediate free use by anyone. Issue of the patent, as was recognized by the authors of the US Constitution, is a way of rewarding the clever inventor by allowing part of the public benefit to be converted to private benefit. The temporary monopolies that patents grant were thought to be undesirable, but offset by the public benefit of public disclosure that allowed others to extend and improve technology. That may be so in the case where the alternative is keeping trade secrets. In the case of enterprises whose sole or primary business is extracting monopoly rents using purchased patents (or even patents on its own inventions) it is very unlikely to be true.

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How about naughty boughty? NT

This text is a non product oriented entity serving one purpose alone, that of distinguishing the post to the server on this website.

(Patent pending.)

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Re: If someone invented a device to extract kilowatts of electricity from the vacuum...

Eliminate patents altogether and go for trade secrets.

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Good.

Don't get me wrong - I have no time for these operations, I just feel that such language becomes the subject of side-arguments that take away from the core one.

The logic in calling someone a 'Patent Troll', or a even a regular 'Troll' is that the media has helped associate the label with bad practices that should be stopped. As that is the case, too much energy gets wasted fighting about whether entity A is a Patent Troll or not. If the label sticks, suddenly it's shady. If it doesn't it's more legitimate.

The facts of what is happening and how these companies operate are enough without loading the language.

Labeling something makes people feel they understand it - they can lump it in a box alongside all the other, similarly labeled things. Someone who doesn't believe in human-influenced climate change is a 'denier' and any specific nuance of their position can therefore be ignore. Someone who does believe in human-influenced climate change is a 'warmist' or an 'alarmist' and they position can similarly be generalised.

In so doing, you allow yourself to take a stance in support or opposition to a person and/or their ideas and practices based on the box you've put them into. You already think all Republicans are greedy, pro-corporation, ra-ra-Jesus gun-nuts so once you've identified someone as a Republican, you can stop listening to them - you already know what they think and what they stand for and you already know you disagree with them. It's so easy!

It happens the other way too - instantly supporting or agreeing with someone because you've labeled them (e.g.) a Democrat.

It's convenient but not helpful in a case like this.

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Dear Judge. Can I call them scum sucking assclowns?

How about Fuckwits? Social Shit Stains? Leeches On Humanity? Wastes of Oxygen? Poster Children for Retroactive Abortion? Dickheads? Dipshits? Assholes? Dingleberry munching feces belchers? Sniper Targets?

They're "Non Practicing Entities", but no matter how hard & long you polish that fucker, it's still a diseased lump of shit that deserves to be flushed down the toilet.

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Re: Dear Judge. Can I call them scum sucking assclowns?

They could try calling them "Non Practicing TittieEnts" & then claim it was a typo. (With apologies to J.R.R. Tolkien)

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Re: Dear Judge. Can I call them scum sucking assclowns?

Ah, you managed to find the Entwives? Better drop Treebeard a line. ;-)

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Nya
Coat

Re: Dear Judge. Can I call them scum sucking assclowns?

Naww, just keep calling them Apple will be fine with that :P

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g e
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Re: Dear Judge. Can I call them scum sucking assclowns?

Tez, is that you..?

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Re: Dear Judge. Can I call them scum sucking assclowns?

@Mitoo Bobsworth

Points for sheer childishness (many of us are guilty of being too serious at times).

@big_D

Excellent.

Being a Reg commentard is a demanding hobby; you've got to be fluent in Adams and Pratchett, be able to talk Trek or Tolkien with equal ease, know your Starks from your Quarks (or quarks), tell a Cylon from a Cyberman at fifty paces and be just as at home with JJ or JRR*. You must be familiar with the operation of a De-Mat gun or a Maula pistol, know your way around Rapture or R'lyeh and your bacta tank should have a Bort number-plate.

But, when it works out and we're all on-song, well, it's a beautiful thing.

* - Yes, I know that's pretty much a repetition of "Trek or Tolkien" but it sounded good.

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Re: Dear Judge. Can I call them scum sucking assclowns?

> and be just as at home with JJ or JRR

GR or JRR, surely.

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Re: Dear Judge. Can I call them scum sucking assclowns?

"You will have your own maula pistol, lad, when you've earned it."

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Re: Dear Judge. Can I call them scum sucking assclowns?

I think he mean JJ Abrams... *shudder*

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Re: Dear Judge. Can I call them scum sucking assclowns?

"GR or JRR, surely."

I presume you mean "GRR". And I did play with that but it didn't quite fit. That and GoT is massively mainstream. Pshah.

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Errrrr?

I hate these scum-bastards as much as the next guy, but surely this is a reasonable request as this sort of language is prejudicial - they've not been found guilty yet!

I'm sure if you legitimately took someone to court for rear-ending you, you wouldn't feel it fair if the defence kept referring to you as the litigious ambulance chasing con-man

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Re: Errrrr?

That analogy isn't applicable. An ambulance chasing lawyer is still a Practicing Entity. A slimy one to be sure, but they're still practicing law, going out & getting clients, and finding/building cases to prosecute.

The NPE would be a jackass straight out of law school trolling the hospital Emergency Rooms looking for accident victims, and suing them for violating their patent on bleeding to death from massive internal damages.

These guys are trying to sue over MAC addressing, as if they invented the damned thing & are owed a bazillion bucks for their work. They didn't invent a damned thing, they managed to get a patent on something "...on a computer/network/internet", and are now suing the crap out of a major corporation as a way to earn some cash. MAYBE I could cut them some slack IF they had actually invented something novel/unique, had been trying to market it (I.E. make money trying to sell it), and suddenly found Apple had swiped their design. But that's not the case. Not even close.

Thus I consider them crusty underwear stripes on a diseased corpse... No offense to the corpse.

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Mushroom

Re: Errrrr?

Hi, maybe the analogy is a bit crappy. I was trying to think in terms of a personal case without using a lawyer. I.E. just me trying to claim for damages to my car, and being referred to as an ambulance chaser in the process.... Yes, I know, insurance companies do this part - as I said, crappy analogy!

Now, this case is complete bollocks, and I agree entirely with your opinion on them.

I hate the scum sucking parasites who behave this way, but then, I'm not saying this in a court where a verdict has yet to be reached.

As such, (and IANAL) I still believe this is a fair decission.

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Re: Prejudicial? Let's be real here

The entire point of a civil trial is to prejudice the jury to your point of view, civil trials much more so than criminal trials. The sole reason for not calling names in a trial is not to protect the defendant but to protect the image of the lawyer acting for them. That lawyer doesn't want to be seen - publicly - for what they are - defenders of pond scum.

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Facepalm

I'd personally go with...

"Oxygen Thieves", but Judge Koh might take issue with that, too!

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Ok!

Because so many people took issue with a recent post I made I'll get it out of the way - IS LUCY KOH THE ONLY JUDGE IN CALI-FUCKIN'-YA!!!

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Re: Ok!

Yes.

That's why your case is taking so long to be heard.

<grin>

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Re: Ok!

No, it's taking so long to be heard because as a 'not-quite' pensioner my ears, mouth and mind aren't as quick as they once were and my verbal bitch-slaps lose some of the effect when given a few minutes late. To top it all off my coffee is often too cold and my tea not hot enough and the whole thing is a little exasperating! I'll think I'll lay down for a bit now, remind me what we're talking about after teh chamomile/vodka wears off...

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Can we still call them flatulating buttheads?

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But they are patent trolls!

Just like Apple, only on a much smaller scale.

That fact that Apple produces some stuff should not distract from the fact that they play the patent lottery with some massive stakes. The patent law on software / electronics is broken but an intellectual property mosquito like GPNE is not fundamentally different from the larger carnivores out there.

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Re: But they are patent trolls!

Is being a 'patent troll' illegal or does it result in one's patents being invalidated?

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Re: But they are patent trolls!

"That fact that Apple produces some stuff..."

Nope, Apple design and market some stuff, production is left to the Chinese slave labour in factory cities that could pass for internment camps.

This is a catch-22 for Apple, fighting a patent troll in court which could lead to a legal decision against trolls which could well be used against their own trolling in the future if it sets a legal precident, perhaps I am a little twisted but I find great amusement in that thought.

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Re: Turkeys campaigning for Christmas

> This is a catch-22 for Apple, fighting a patent troll in court which could lead to a legal decision against trolls which could well be used against their own trolling in the future

Just like Oracle hell bent on asserting that APIs are patent/copyrightable just so they can be forced to hand over every red cent they ever earned to IBM.

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Anonymous Coward

Good one judge!

Everyone knows there is no such thing as a troll.A troll is just something people call someone who you lose an argument to in an internet discussion, or who voices an opinion different to yours.

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Trollface

Re: Good one judge!

I disagree

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Re: Good one judge!

Trolls have existed many a year. I remember my uncle trying to troll me by asking me to go get a bubble for a spirit level. He was chuckling on my return until I handed him a bubble for a spirit level (Thanks Stanley for making em replaceable). Trolling is just carrying out a practical joke.

Griefers on the other hand carry out acts of a cruel nature just to upset, embarrass or cause emotional pain to the other party.

So every time time I see a journalist use the 'troll' monicker when reporting about griefers it makes me wonder if they all would like to be referred to as phone hacking scum.

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'Chancer', 'wide boy', and 'thieving git' appear not to be on the banned list...

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Surely a typo?

“without unduly prejudicing GPNE or confusing the jury.”

Otherwise, I agree with those who pointed out that "patent troll"/"nonpracticing entity" is a distraction. "Real" company using patents to prevent competition is no lesser evil than a troll collecting patent rent.

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Anonymous Coward

Corporate Shell?

Just which "corporate shell" is Apple using to call this particular kettle black?

The Luxembourg one? Ireland? Netherlands? Caymans? Apple Bahamas?

Probably one that doesn't have a $50 billion offshore cash hoard, and can't afford to pay royalties on legally granted patents. (Or tax so the US can keep schools open)

At least the judge is well paid to sit through this, hard to imagine she springs out of bed looking forward to another day of it.

What about the jury? Are real people being forced to do jury duty and miss work, for a pitiful stipend, for this carry on?

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What about Big Fat Doodoo Head? Is that still okay?

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@PassiveSmoking

As should be clear by now, I always award points (non-redeemable) for childishness.

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But if she rules out these things in advance......

"Apple may not refer to GPNE as a “patent troll,” “pirate,” “bounty hunter,” “privateer,” “bandit,” “paper patent,” “stick up,” “shakedown,” “playing the lawsuit lottery,” “corporate shell game,” or “a corporate shell.” "

.......she's surely applying those words to that company by implication anyway.

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In a similar judgement

Maybe Judge Lucy could strike down 'Innovators' as a corporate subtitle of a certain fruity phone makers and a well known supplier of desktop operating systems (amongst other things.)

After all there is very little hard evidence that any large world\(tax) beating corporation as actually innovated anything from within..

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In a similar judgement

Maybe Judge Lucy could strike down 'Innovators' as a corporate subtitle of a certain fruity phone makers and a well known supplier of desktop operating systems (amongst other things.)

After all there is very little hard evidence that any large world\(tax) beating corporation has actually innovated anything from within..

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Big Brother

GPNE is a Delaware patent troll

Eastern District of Texas, April 2007: "GPNE Corp. v. Samsung, LG Electronics, HTC America. Filed 1/31/07. Hawaiian Troll! GPNE is a Delaware corporation with principal place of business in Honolulu, Hawaii - at the same address as the Hokondo Waikiki Beachside Hostel. Need more evidence this is a troll?"

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