Intellectual Asset Management: Citing non-existent foreign “trolls” to justify US patent reform is despicable dog whistle politics, by Joff Wild
This post originally appeared in Intellectual Asset Management on November 30, 2014.
The debate about patents and patent reform is taking a nasty turn in the United States. Over recent months, a series of articles have appeared in various online and printed publications discussing what are usually termed as government or state sponsored patent trolls. According to the authors of such pieces, these are entities established by foreign governments in order to leverage the patent system for their own selfish, predatory ends.
In the Boston Globe at the start of November, James Bessen and Michael Meurer described them as “firms with no interest in innovation or technology transfer; they hold patents to assert them against innocent businesses to extract some of the profit from genuine innovators”. More recently, in an article published on the Forbes website and also in the American Spectator, Donald Rieck and Wayne Winegarden labelled them as entities that “exploit loopholes in the current patent system for the sole purpose of extorting royalties from innovators who are actually using the new technology in their production processes”.
In both articles and others, a lot of the same organisations are held up as being examples of this new and damaging phenomenon: France Brevets, the Innovation Network Corporation of Japan (INCJ), Taiwan’s Industrial Technology and Research Institute (ITRI) and Ruichuan IPR Funds in China. These are all entities, the reader is invited to believe, that have been set up essentially to extort money from innovative American companies, so increasing their costs, hampering their ability to invest and in some circumstances possibly closing them down.
The problem, though, is that none of it is actually true. And that means one of two things is happening: lies are being deliberately told to misinform readers and skew debate; or the authors of these pieces are too incompetent to do even basic research. Either way falsehoods are being propagated for political ends – and it stinks.