To be like a troll: how monopolists rule patents

The movement of patent trolling and its use in large corporations has existed for many years, but it has recently entered the active phase on the territory of the Russian Federation. This is due to the development of high technologies, the expansion of creative, applied and other areas related to intellectual law. Patent trolls parasitize participants in these markets, and unscrupulous companies use such trolling as a lever of pressure on competitors. How, why does this happen and who benefits?

Who is the patent troll and what does he do

A patent troll, also known as a patent dealer, is a natural or legal person who is engaged in filing patent claims. There are entire corporations that specialize in registering and filing various patents. The largest of them are Ventures, Round Rock Research LLC or Rockstar Consortium LLC (the company is a consortium of a number of world-famous companies, such as Microsoft, Apple and BlackBerry). Thus, patent trolls make money out of thin air, blackmailing companies, and create unfair competition in the market.

The patent trolling implementation scheme resembles blackmail: the troll waits, chooses the best moment to claim its rights, and attacks the manufacturer when it already produces the patented invention. “Trolls” use inaccurate language in the description of their patents in order to make it easier for them to tailor existing inventions. For example, there were cases when “trolls” from the fashion world described their products as “men's double-breasted vest with fur”. Agree, a very vague description. This was done specifically so that as many other people's products as possible fall under this description, and so that the "trolls" can receive payment from a larger number of victims.

It is noteworthy that such deceit exists for a long time: the first patent trolling incident was registered in the middle of the 19th century, and among the first trolls was listed, for example, Thomas Edison, who patented about 1000 inventions during his life, and he is rumored to have a patent for an incandescent lamp , also simply successfully acquired ...

“Trolls” massively buy unused patents or submit an application and delay the moment of its registration as much as possible. These patents are “activated” when someone develops and launches similar technology into production.

At this point, a patent troll appears with a ready-made claim and demands compensation. Often, it is more profitable for the accused producer to agree to the terms of the “troll”: it’s easier to settle with him on his terms, instead of bringing the case to court and spending a lot more money and resources.

Trolling industry

The so-called patent holdings are based on areas related to high technology, innovation, inventions and creative crafts. These areas are closely related to the concept of copyright, they are also particularly vulnerable and often become victims of patent trolls.

A real hunt for copyright infringers is unfolding, and the “trolls” can attack small businesses, but their goal, of course, is the big market players.

But there is a downside. The one in which the largest firms themselves hire a team of lawyers specializing in patents and copyrights, and go on the warpath. What are they doing? Search for violators of any patent and copyright rights among their competitors. What is their purpose? Of course, grab more market share.

Patent Hunting in Russia

Despite the development of Russian business, it still has weak points that receive little attention. One of these gaps is the negligent attitude of commercial structures to copyright and foreign intellectual property.

This circumstance is in the hands of companies that practice patent hunting. Most often, these are the largest representatives of the market, with strong financial and legal support. Giants use their resources to find any violations of the rights of others from other major representatives of the industry, thus seeking to divide the market and take a more confident position.

An example would be the situation in the field of interior design and decorative tiles and mosaics. At the moment in Russia there are not so many companies producing unique art mosaics for the home. One of these manufacturers wanted to make them even smaller. It was easy to blame the competitors: many sketches implemented in mosaic patterns were used without copyright registration. Such sketches can be designed by order of the manufacturer, but not registered as a property, which puts them at risk. “Trolls”, in their turn, imitate or falsify the fact of violation of their rights, create similar works and form a claim based on this and sue the victim.

So, we see the classical scheme of hunting: the prosecutor, for sure, also had no rights to the pattern that became the subject of controversy. But the prosecutor was sure that the competitor did not have these rights either. It took only a little work of the legal department of the company to hunt, and even with the triumphal finale.

Another example: many large companies (banks, telecom operators, print-shops and others) are now actively using “internet jokes” and memes for their commercial purposes. Place memorable pictures on their official pages, sites and even products. What is characteristic, at the same time, the monopolists do not reflect on the fact that even a trifling meme can have a copyright holder.

Such lightheadedness and imaginary permissiveness can cost companies a lot of money. For example, recently a claim was made against Sberbank about the misuse of a football meme. The meme had a legal owner who filed a complaint: it is possible that Sberbank will have to pay for the unauthorized use of copyright content in the design of its plastic cards.

Why the problem exists and how to solve it

The problem of unfair competition based on patent hunting will be exacerbated. This is due to the fact that companies in our country do not particularly care about the competent management of intellectual property created within the company. Copyright is regularly violated on the basis that no one will notice, and if it does, the violation will surely “get away with it.”

The solution to this problem seems difficult, long, but it exists. To reduce the percentage of such violations and eliminate patent hunting, more attention should be paid to legal literacy of manufacturing companies. Literally: register all your inventions, not sparing the time and money, because these investments will be worth it and will pay off in the future. It is necessary to instill respect for someone else's intellectual property. And if companies learn best from their mistakes, it means you need to create more precedents when the authors make claims to companies that have stolen their content.

It is important to bear in mind that you can make a claim for your inventions and works if the author himself took care of himself and registered his copyright.

Such actions will generally contribute to the growth of legal literacy associated with intellectual property, as well as positively affect healthy competition, the development of creative industries and, of course, the well-being of the legitimate authors themselves.

Respecting copyrights is a civilized and modern approach that underlies the work of large global corporations. Let's hope that one day he will become commonplace in Russia.

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