Real life “trolling” has taken the form of corporations who file many patents on products that they don’t actually produce in an effort to file patent lawsuits against others in hopes of getting large out of court settlements. In this case however justice came down on the right side by fining the phony company and the lawyers involved.
Citing the over 100 lawsuits Eon-Net (the troll) had filed, all followed by quick demands for settlements, the court’s decision said that the lawsuit had ”indicia of extortion,” fined the lawyers under Rule 11 for filing lawsuits with the intent to harass and ultimately found against the troll. As if that wasn’t enough, the court also pointed out that Eon-Net is a non-practicing company, which provides it with generally undeserved protection against counter patent-infringement lawsuits because, well, it doesn’t do anything.
Patent trolling and the public awareness of it has reached fever pitch lately and many are calling for change to the patent system. This decision seems to be a step in the right direction. The practices were pretty obviously extortionary in nature and that does constitute an invalid purpose for a lawsuit. Due to the extreme costs of going to court, which can cost the accused oodles of cash even after they win, most of the accused companies settle. This decision may, and hopefully will, set a precedent that patent trolling is not okay to do. Of course what exactly constitues patent trolling, extortion and rule 11 violations are bound to be hotly debated for a while into the future. This should, however, give the patent trolls pause before they threaten that next batch of lawsuits.