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  • When A Vringo Troll Isn't A Troll

    When I think of trolling I envision sitting in a boat, cruising up a river channel under the limited power of a battery-operated trolling motor, with fishing tackle deployed waiting to snag the big one. For me (though I haven't been fishing in years) the catch would usually be an old boot, a poorly-placed trot line, or underwater brush, but, just once in a while I would catch something worth taking home.

    I suppose that's how many picture what is termed a patent troll, with a little twist and less than favorable affection: a greedy, business opportunist cruising the halls of the judicial labyrinth, with their myriad of lawsuits and motions filed, hoping at least one will generate a modest stream of revenue, for which they have not labored.

    But what makes someone a patent troll? Is it that they're an NPE, not the original patentee, or is it anyone that inconveniences someone else via patent litigation? In my opinion a patent troll usually knows his frivolous, antiquated, otherwise useless patents are not being infringed upon, but hopes to find either someone who will pay him to go away without legal action, or a jury to lean his direction. The troll doesn't need much, just enough to keep his cash-flow positive. This description does not fit Vringo's (VRNG) business model. They own legitimate patents that possess real monetary value, and they are being infringed upon by others, which has been validated with a jury verdict.

    So what's the problem? Why is Vringo still characterized as a patent troll? Is it because too much time has elapsed before filing their lawsuit? That would imply that a patent's validity lessens over time (its value may, but not its validity). Is it that they are an NPE? That would infer that anyone who doesn't use any of his material goods for a specified period of time stands the risk that anyone else that has a use for it could legally take possession and claim it as his own. Could you see your neighbor driving off with your sailboat you've had sitting idle in your driveway for ten years, just because he had a use for it, knowing there was nothing you could do about it? This is socialism, where everything belongs to everybody, and we share ideas and profits equally, yet indiscriminately, regardless of anyone's individual effort or contribution to the process.

    I submit the big rub most infringers have with patent litigation is the litigation disrupts the good thing the infringer has going, and the harshness of the rub is directly proportional to the length of time that has elapsed and the amount of revenue that has been generated from infringing. If they had been caught early the penalty would not have been as bad and the animosity may have been lessened. But when much time has passed and billions in revenue have been generated, the stakes become much larger and the disdain grows. Its' as if the infringer is asking the patentee, "Why didn't you catch me sooner to minimize my penalty?"

    It's not the responsibility of the patentee to search out any and all companies or individuals that may want to use his patent and educate them on patent law, or to assist in finding a way they can employ other technology to avoid infringing his patent. Rather, it is up to the respective business or individual to investigate all possible potential of infringement and make an educated decision that their business model either does not infringe, or that it does and their calculated risk assessment allows them to continue, with full knowledge that they could get caught. But instead, there seems to be an attitude among many that if someone discovers a way to monetize a patent, and infringes that patent, that the patentee should not be compensated because he allowed the patent to languish and not reach its fullest potential for the community at large (another hint of socialism).

    If Vringo is a patent troll then, as a stockholder (no necessarily of Vringo), I am a stock troll. Through my Vringo stock purchases I have not added a penny to the value of Vringo, as I am not one of the original investors. My money did not go directly to the company's management team to be used at their discretion to grow their business, but rather to another stockholder that sold his shares the same day I bought mine. So, though I have not added any value to the company I am hoping they will add value to my portfolio through their hard work, while I do nothing but wait for the stock price to reach my sell price. Disregarding my financial investment, it almost sounds like I'm a freeloader. Better yet, think of the shorts, who, not only add no value to the company, are hoping the company's value deteriorates to bring down the stock price. Are they worse than a troll?

    I'm not suggesting the term troll doesn't apply to anyone, but it certainly doesn't apply to Vringo.

    Disclosure: I am long VRNG.

    Tags: VRNG
    Nov 23 1:06 PM | Link | 3 Comments
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