Subject: Re: patent trolls and X-licensors
From: "Ben Tilly" <>
Date: Mon, 5 Jun 2006 14:13:11 -0700

On 6/5/06, simo <> wrote:
> On Mon, 2006-06-05 at 10:44 -0700, Ben Tilly wrote:
> > Incidentally a few years ago I remember seeing someone on FSB saying
> > that a selection of random patents owned by IBM was surveyed and it
> > was estimated that about 70% were invalid and would not hold up in
> > court.  The opinion was expressed that IBM was unlikely to be
> > exceptional in this regard, and may even be better than average.
> > Given this, I'm fairly comfortable saying that most patents *are*
> > invalid.  The question then becomes what the best thing is to do about
> > this fact.
> The answer really depends on who you ask to.

The answer people *want* depends on who you ask to.  But the  answer
does not.  Some fraction of patents actually will not stand up if
challenged in court.  The estimate that I've seen is 70%, and barring
better information, I find this estimate credible.

> Hint:
> Usually the patent holders does not like to see their assets being cut
> by 70% ...

Obviously not.  But this estimate does not cut their assets by 70%.
As I've pointed out elsewhere, even invalid patents have negotiating
value.  Because even if the other party thinks that they're invalid,
do you *really* want to risk a court case?  Better yet, if my lawyers
can drop a pile of 15 patents on your desk, sure you're likely to be
able to invalidate most of them, but at least one is likely to nail
you.  Neither you nor I may be sure which one it would be, but it
isn't worth your time to find out.

That is why so many invalid patents exist.  The incentives built into
the system encourage their existence.