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A Change In The Patent Troll Landscape

The push for patent validity is having a direct impact on how patent trolls do business. This is evidenced by Erich Spangenberg yesterday announcing that he will step down as head of IPNav, a well-known patent troll with which Rackspace has battled for years.

According to IAM magazine, his departure is in part because the patent troll business model is getting harder – there is more emphasis on making sure that patents are valid:

“The business that [Dierdre] Leane [IPNav’s new CEO] takes over will be significantly smaller than at IPNav’s peak, having shrunk from approximately 50 people to around 25 today…. Spangenberg stated that the business has reacted to significant changes in the market that have placed a greater emphasis on patent validity rather than potential infringement.

‘In 2003 we probably spent about 75% of our time valuing a portfolio on infringement and a limited amount on validity,’ he said. ‘Now the last thing you want to do is spend a few million dollars litigating only to then find out that the patents are invalid.’ He insisted that the company would grow its workforce again but that IPNav now places more value on scientists’ and engineers’ skillsets rather than those relating to the law.’”

Spangenberg concluded, “I’m not sure I would get into the business today, certainly not in the way I did in 2003.”

We are glad to see the new focus on patent validity. We challenge the validity of  every patent that is asserted against us, and we encourage all others to do the same.

About the Author

This is a post written and contributed by Van Lindberg.

Van Lindberg has worked professionally as an engineer, as a lawyer, and as an executive. He currently has a dual legal/technical role at Rackspace, and has worked out of both the legal department and the Office of the CTO. In April 2012, the American Bar Association Journal named Van as one of "America's Top 12 Techiest Attorneys."

On the legal side, Van leads Rackspace's Intellectual Property program, directing Rackspace's strategy and policy around patent, copyright, trademark, trade secret, and open source matters. Van also heads Rackspace's lobbying efforts relative to patent reform.

On the technical side, Van runs Rackspace's technical leadership corps, known internally as the "TCT." Van also works in technical strategy and ecosystem engagement at Rackspace, identifying emerging technologies, separating out differentiating versus non-differentiating product elements, and using open source strategies to be more competitive.

Previously, Van worked at the law firm of Haynes and Boone, where he wrote "Intellectual Property and Open Source," published by O'Reilly and Associates, and grew an open source practice helping businesses with everything from open source compliance to business strategy.

In addition to Van's open source practice, he did IP transactional work, patent prosecution, litigation, and post-grant actions (ex parte and inter partes reexams/reviews).

Van currently serves as chairman of the board of the Python Software Foundation, on the board of the OpenStack Foundation, and was the first chair of the Docker Governance Advisory Board.

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