Qualcomm...a "patent troll"?

Rep. Darrell Issa pushes for reform, meets frustration

Patent reform stalled in Congress last year, but some solons are pushing hard for it this year. One bloc looking for reforms wants to rein in patent lawsuits. This reform would make it tougher for companies and individuals to file suits to block a patent.

Irwin Jacobs

Irwin Jacobs

Many in Congress want to do something about so-called "patent trolls," who attempt to enforce patent rights for a sum far beyond the realistic value of the patent. Some trolls don't even deal in products or services tied to the patent in question.

On January 13th, the blog techdirt.com had a column by its editor, Mike Masnick. He had been moderator of a panel on patent reform. The headline of his column: "Qualcomm Says It's Fighting for the Little Guy, While really Blocking Patent Reform That Would Help the Little Guy." Wrote Masnick, "Qualcomm has been a longtime fighter against patent reform — which isn't all that surprising, as a big part of Qualcomm's business has been licensing its patents."

Darrell Issa

Darrell Issa

North County's Rep. Darrell Issa, chair of the intellectual property subcommittee of the House Judiciary Committee, was a panel participant. So was Qualcomm lawyer Laurie Self. Masnick wrote that "You can see [Issa's] visible frustration with Qualcomm and Self basically being a key player in holding up any progress [on patent reform]...Issa pointed out, quite clearly, that Self was being very misleading in claiming that there was no way to determine what was abusive. He explained a variety of abusive practices."

Masnick wrapped up his column by saying, "Giant patent holding companies like Qualcomm are pretending that they 'represent the little guy' and are doing everything possible to muddy the waters and block real reform that targets abuse."

Qualcomm refused to comment.

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Jacobs was beneficiary of the usual process whereby the taxpayer funds basic research at a university, and a member of the research team takes the resulting discovery and makes billions of dollars in private enterprise.

The taxpayer has nothing to show for her investment. Yes, of course the private enterprise will do all they can to protect their ill gotten patents and any others they can buy or steal.

This is the capitalist system as evolved in the US. Research is funded by taxpayers, profits are directed to well connected entrepreneurs.

If you look around at the companies and individuals who rake in the billions of dollars, you will note that it is all founded upon Intellectual Property. Some government has given them exclusive rights to exploit a technology, an invention, a discovery that they may have no right to.

swell: The phenomenon you describe is very visible in the biotech industry. The government pays for basic research, then entrepreneurs and venture capitalists seize the technology, go public, and get rich, even if the technology ultimately fails. Taxpayers get nothing. It's socialization of the costs and privatization of the gain. It's the worst kind of corporate welfare. It stinks. Best, Don Bauder

I agree that taxpayers don't see a good return on investment for IP generated during UC research. I think this is a problem and is unfair. For example, Broadcom was started based on work cofounders Henry Samueli and Henry Nicolas did for Nicolas's PhD work at UCLA. I don't have any data but from what I've heard from at least one professor the UC techonology transfer office isn't particularly aggressive at negotiating licensing revenue. I think the rationale is that allowing faculty to leverage their academic research in industry provides good incentives to recruit and retain top faculty members even if UC can't quite keep up with top private engineering school (Stan, Caltech, MIT) compensation. Also I think they rationalize that by allowing industry to have easy access to university research then it encourages more industry investment in UC. BRCM and QCOM's founders have donated a lot of money to UCLA, UCI, and UCSD - probably in the 100's of millions total. All 3 schools have a lot of buildings and schools of engineering named after them. All in all, I think there are a lot of big conflicts of interests for UC and for UC professors. I think in a lot of cases the taxpayer doesn't see as much of a return-on-investment as they should. But that's hard to quantify.

ImJustABill: In the case of biotech, it's been suggested that the medicines that are commercialized, but are a result of government-funded research, should be discounted to the public for a period after the company goes public. To my knowledge, nothing has come of this suggestion. Best, Don Bauder

It's another case in which it's very tricky to make private-public "partnerships" fair for everyone. Public funding should benefit either the general public or the needy but sometimes public funding ends up benifitting the wealthy and/or well-connected more than the general public or the needy.

ImJustABill: "Public-private partnerships" can be pithily described: "corporate welfare." Best, Don Bauder

I always worry about people who want to reform something especially people like Issa. Reform usually means to take away from someone else or in this case to make it easier to to screw the public. Swell has it right.

AlexClarke: If you study Issa's past, you realize he is not someone who should be shouting about reforms. Best, Don Bauder

'rein in patent lawsuits'

plain English translation: make it easier for Chinese and large invention thieves to rob and crush their small competitors.

These bills do not do what they say. Don't believe the lies of thieves and their paid puppets. Inventors will tell you Masnick is one such puppet.

For more information please visit us at https://aminventorsforjustice.wordpress.com/category/our-position/ or, contact us at [email protected]

staff: Your post shows how bitter the patent dispute is. Strong words are uttered by both sides -- and that's how it should be. Best, Don Bauder

Scott Graham I: Yes, the phenomenon shows up in other industries. Biotech is not alone. Best, Don Bauder

Scott Graham II: Some with government positions may wind up with a lot of stock, and possibly a board position, with a company whose technology was originally developed with government money. Best, Don Bauder

Scott Graham II:

I'm not quite sure I understand your point. I'm basically saying that the public (taxpayers) put a lot of money into universities (esp. public universities) and it seems to me that if that money creates intellectual property with some monetary value than the money should somehow be returned to the public - as a refund to taxpayers, lower tuition, etc.

ImJustABill: I agree. If the research is funded by the government, taxpayers should get a return on their money. But corporate welfare doesn't work that way. Best, Don Bauder

Strange news, considering Qualcomm itself was being sued by a company called ParkerVision, for patent infringement. The suit was tossed on appeal last summer. And I recall an article here in the Reader about them being sued by a company over some sort of pet tracking device, being made by one of Qualcomm's acquisitions. They even had a notice on their internal home page encouraging employees to support laws that would make patent trolling difficult.

KrimsonKing: Your memory could be on target. It's a controversy. Best, Don Bauder

I don't agree with Staff.

I think the patent system is largely obsolete and needs major overhaul. The patent system was devised during a time when a single inventor could come up with some clever idea, manufacture it, and sell products based on that clever idea. 200 years ago patents protected inventors.

I think that the "small inventor" is largely a thing of the past and nowadays is really just a euphamism for "lawyers"

Now I think that technology has evolved I think there is a fundamental problem that it's too easy for patent trolls to look for obvious "inventions" they can patent and then extort money from legitimate businesses that do real work.

Some of the reforms I would like to see include:

  1. No "court shopping". Put East Texas patent troll scammers out of business. Perhaps restrict patent cases to a handful of courts nationwide - maybe 10 or so. Ideally these should be located near technology centers - Bay Area, Boston, etc.

  2. Make losing plaintiffs pay defendant legal fees (unless they have strong arguments that they have a legitimate case)

  3. Restrict monetary damages to what the plaintiffs earn (or might potentially earn) from actually selling products THEMSELVES. No damages to "non-practicing entities" period. If you don't make and sell products using your patent (or can show that you are planning to) then you should get ANY damages from someone else using your patent.

That's my opinion.

ImJustABill: Juset think of how much money lawyers make in these patent disputes that go on for years. I agree: the patent system is obsolete and needs a major overhaul, as you say. Best, Don Bauder

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