In a blatant attempt to pander to potential clients known for unashamedly infringing on other’s patent rights, California law firm Wang, Hartmann, Gibbs & Cauley, PC repeatedly drops the “T” bomb (despite claiming to “engage in IP litigation to defend our clients’ IP rights”) and demonstrates a complete misunderstanding of both patent reform and the so-called “non-practicing” patent owners. Wang swings and misses right off the bat, erroneously claiming that “[t]he increase in patent litigation has moved Congress to consider legislation to stem the practices of ‘patent trolls.'” In addition, its definition of a “troll” basically includes any use of a patent other than for artwork. It’s hard to know where to begin, since the piece is basically a stream-of-consciousness diatribe with a few non-sequitur headings thrown in for good measure.
First, with respect to patent reform, nothing in the legislation specifically addresses patent owners of the “non-practicing” variety (nor should it, since these are the best kind of patent owners, but that’s beside the point). Second, the article only mentions (at least in headings) two of the many changes being considered by congress, one of which has been eliminated from the bill for basically the entire last session of congress! Nowhere does the Wang article explain what the “first-to-file” change has to do with NPEs. Even worse, the authors devote two full paragraphs to explaining damages provisions long since dropped from consideration.
Of course, as bad as its understanding of the patent legislation is, the authors clearly do not understand the purpose of patents in the first place. Using the derogatory “T” word (meaning something bad must be ahead), the firm describes trolls as “individuals and companies that use patents to license revenue (sic) from other companies or to file-patent infringement lawsuits — rather than to build and sell products using the patented inventions.” Unless you’re going to hang it on your wall for everyone to admire, the only way to “use” a patent is to license it or assert it in a lawsuit or ITC proceeding to stop someone from infringing. Sure, a patent owner can build and sell products that incorporate inventions described in the patents, but I promise you right now, those patents won’t lift a finger … they’ll just sit in the file cabinet (or on the wall, if you prefer) collecting dust.
The firm also demonstrates a complete misunderstanding about how patent investors operate. While the article refers to “trolls” pretty broadly, the context of investors is fairly obvious despite the author’s lack of verbal skill. The article claims that these evil-doers “hold a patent, much like a stock investment, until it can be licensed to another company” and “are reminiscent of cyber-squatters who bought up Internet domain names during the dot-com boom.” If you are a patent owner and can find a buyer who will pay you cash money in exchange for your patent on the off-chance that some day, some one might be infringing or will want to take a license, pinch yourself (or don’t) because you’re obviously dreaming. Patent buyers (perhaps other than Intellectual Ventures who buy anything with a 7 digit number) operate in the here and now, not on speculation.
The firm’s poster child for patent ownership? Lodsys. While Lodsys’s decision to target microscopic software companies makes it an easy scapegoat, the firm’s main criticism of this patent owner is that it expects a license payment “even if the other developer came up with the app that uses similar technology by independent invention.” I wonder if Wang has ever advised a client to drop IP litigation and decline to “defend [its] client’s rights” because the opponent engaged in “independent invention.”
Oh, and I’m not being overly harsh on the whole “pandering” comment … not only did Wang post this garbage on its website, it also took out a press release, ensuring its amateurish ramblings get broad exposure.
So, in summary, this firm can’t read a piece of legislation, doesn’t believe patents should be enforced, can barely string together a coherent sentence, and generally has no concept of how to construct a persuasive argument. In short, all I can say is that I hope my friends who are busy asserting the rights of patent owners have the opportunity to oppose the folks over at Wang, Hartmann, Gibbs & Cauley, PC.