eBay Patent War: High Tech, Double Standard?
By Ina Steiner
With some major patent cases going before the Supreme Court, including the recent RIM Blackberry case and the upcoming eBay case, the problem of patents are getting a lot of media attention. The battle lines are drawn in articles and editorials between big companies and innovators. Big companies in the high-tech industry say an inventor must practice her patent before she can prevent someone else from using it, otherwise, the inventor is a "patent troll." Small innovators say the only leverage they have in getting big companies (with enormous legal might) to license their patents is the ultimate threat of injunction.
But large Silicon Valley corporations may have figured out a plan to give themselves both protection from patent trolls and the right to "troll patents" themselves. It comes in the form of a company called Intellectual Ventures. Companies like eBay, Google, Microsoft, Intel and others have invested in the company, according to Newsweek (http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/6479958/site/newsweek).
Intellectual Ventures acquires high-tech patents and files its own patents with the patent office. Anyone who invests in Intellectual Ventures can rest assured that those patents will not be used against them. But according to Newsweek, the company also plans to make money for investors, possibly by demanding licensing fees from its investors' rivals. (So it's no surprise Intellectual Ventures filed an amicus brief in the eBay case in support of MercExchange.)
It looks like Silicon Valley corporations want to have their cake - and eat it too.
About the author:
Ina Steiner is co-founder and Editor of EcommerceBytes and has been reporting on ecommerce since 1999. She's a widely cited authority on marketplace selling and is author of "Turn eBay Data Into Dollars" (McGraw-Hill 2006). Her blog was featured in the book, "Blogging Heroes" (Wiley 2008). Follow her on Twitter at @ecommercebytes and send news tips to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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