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Hooray for the Patent Troll!

By creating market liquidity, "trolls" provide a valuable service to inventors

3 min read

In late November, Microsoft lost a round in a South Korean legal dispute with a local inventor and a company that had bought the rights to his patent for a process that translates Korean into English. Such a dispute would have been too small to merit notice internationally if not for the plaintiff’s business model. This suit was brought against Microsoft not by the inventor alone, but rather by both the inventor and the firm—called P and IB—that had bought the rights to his patent, apparently without any intention of turning those rights into any kind of product.

The firm in this case took on the role of a so-called patent troll. I say ”so-called” because the phrase is a pejorative label of indeterminate meaning, and I find it somewhat loathsome. In fact, patent owners who are often accused of being patent trolls are acting within the law. There is nothing wrong either with them or the law. Far from stifling innovation, trolls foster it.

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How Nanotech Can Foil Counterfeiters

These tiny mechanical ID tags are unclonable, cheap, and invisible

10 min read
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Close up of a finger with a clear square on it.
University of Florida
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What's the largest criminal enterprise in the world? Narcotics? Gambling? Human trafficking?

Nope. The biggest racket is the production and trade of counterfeit goods, which is expected to exceed US $1 trillion next year. You've probably suffered from it more than once yourself, purchasing on Amazon or eBay what you thought was a brand-name item only to discover that it was an inferior-quality counterfeit.

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