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Can There be a Patent for a Method of Patent Trolling?
This post was first published on 11th October, 2014.
How about committing the crime of killing all the criminals so as to prevent crime? Sounds outrageous, doesn’t it? Well, then how about patenting the patent troll in order to prevent patent trolling? The USPTO is proof enough for granting some of the weirdest and craziest patents. But this one seems to be the cherry on the icing on the cake. Halliburton Energy Services Inc. has made an Application No. 11/741429 before the USPTO titled Patent Acquisition and Assertion by a (Non-Inventor) First Party against Second Party.
Here is how the invention actually works. The First company does not invent anything. It will find a Second company which invented something but chose to keep it a secret instead of patenting it. Then the first company drafts patent claims to cover the technology that the Second company is using and files it before the Patent Office and obtains a patent. By this, the First company will acquire an equity interest in the technology which they never invented. Once the patent is granted, a license of this patent is offered to the Second company. If the Second company refuses to obtain a license, then the First company threatens the Second company to sue for patent infringement. Now, the Second company doesn’t have an option but to pay a price for its own technology and obtain a license. The applicant also gives an option of obtaining either monetary considerations or a cross license from the Second company in return for the license of the patented technology. Then the proceeds from such a monetary settlement are distributed among the First party and the inventor.
Business methods cannot be patented. The USPTO has raised multiple Office Actions and objections regarding the application. However, looking at the readiness of the applicant in responding to Office Actions and pressing the application towards grant, it seems like the applicant really wants to push his application and get a patent.
The detailed description of the invention provides that neither the Inventor nor the Assignee has any interest in applying the techniques mentioned in the patent application. They only intend to use the patent defensively so as to prevent patent trolls which are widespread these days. Without working the patent, using it only to enforce it against others, it seems like the applicants themselves are committing patent trolling on the pretext of preventing it.
All there is left to do is to wait and watch whether the USPTO ultimately grants patents or not. Wonder what will be the consequences if this patent is actually granted!