The Patent Troll Smokescreen
By Joe Nocera
Is the University of Wisconsin-Madison a patent troll?
The question is not as strange as it might seem. “Patent trolls” are entities that own patents that they use not to further innovation or manufacture a product but to conduct a kind of legal extortion racket. Holding patents that are sometimes absurdly vague, they send “demand letters” to the thousands of companies that use, for instance, bar scanners — to cite a legendary example — accusing them of patent infringement.
Many companies pay a fee to avoid litigation, but others decide to stand and fight. Sometimes they win; sometimes they lose. In either case, patent trolling is sand in the engine of commerce.