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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 is Vice President of Intellectual Property at Rackspace. He is trained as a computer engineer and lawyer, but what he does best is “translate” to help businesses, techies and attorneys understand each other.

Van likes working with both computer code and legal code. For the past several years, he has been using natural language processing and graph theory to help him digest and map the U.S. Patent Database.

Before becoming a lawyer, Van was a research and development engineer at NTT/Verio, where he built automation tools and distributed systems using mostly Python. He was also an IT administrator for the Harold B. Lee College of Education at his alma mater, Brigham Young University. Van has been involved with open source since 1994, when a friend introduced him to Linux.

In April 2012, the American Bar Association Journal named Van one of “America’s Top 12 Techiest Attorneys.” He is currently chairman of the board of the Python Software Foundation, as well as the author of “Intellectual Property and Open Source.”


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