When I helped found this organization one year ago, I still thought of patent issues as exclusively “big” business issues. My attempt was to create an organization to address the needs of Internet infrastructure companies, which are predominantly small to medium-sized. I didn’t figure that the i2Coalition would be picking up the mantle of patent reform.
Fast forward a year and patent reform has become one of our policy priorities. In talking to members and potential members over the past year, I have received an education about how big and small business are impacted by patent trolls. I have talked to innovators and job creators who have chosen not to hire and build new projects because of patent trolls. I have talked to businesses that have nearly been put under by patent trolls and have needed to lay off workers and slow their growth.
Troll is a really good name for what these patent holders are. Just as the troll underneath Grimm’s bridge didn’t build it, patent trolls don’t build a thing. They come out of nowhere and exact and ugly and unreasonable toll. As they do so, they turn the patent system on its ear. Patents are intended to encourage innovation and patent trolls do the exact opposite. Patents were designed to encourage inventors to invent and share, but an entire age of overbroad patents has stymied invention and left innovators terrified of exercising their ideas and having their efforts repaid by getting hit with bogus, nuisance lawsuits that steal away the time and money they could be spending on something worthwhile.
I come from the open source world, which has been the most innovative space in software development for the past 45 years. In that time, the open source movement has given the world amazing breakthroughs, including the Internet itself. Huge communities of people collaborate on technology that they just give to the world. Even the best commercial software these days are built on open source code.
I bring this up because it is that type of innovation that is most put at risk by these patent trolls. The world is innovating faster than ever before and it is doing so at a speed no patent office could ever keep up with. People are using the Internet to change the world at a breakneck pace. The single greatest threat to this innovation cycle is the patent troll.
I am proud that i2Coalition is making patent reform one of its core issues. I am excited to see recent bills by Senators on both sides of the political aisle come out in favor of patent reform. I am especially encouraged by the White House’s announcement this week.
Patent reform and an open Internet go hand-in-hand, because patent trolls are fighting against the Internet and its innovation on a daily basis. We cannot continue to make it legal for them to do so.