Patent News | Apple co-founder calls microsoft co-founder a patent troll

5 May

Patent Attorney BostonWhat is a patent troll? Wikipedia defines it as “a pejorative term used for a person or company that enforces its patents against one or more alleged infringers in a manner considered unduly aggressive or opportunistic, often with no intention to manufacture or market the patented invention.” Which seems to define Paul Allen—co-founder of Microsoft, pretty well. In August 2010 a lawsuit was announced in which Allen accused 11 major IT companies of patent infringement: Apple, Facebook, Google (and it’s subsidiary YouTube), AOL, eBay, Netflix, Office Depot, OfficeMax, Staples and Yahoo were all on the list. According to Allen, all of these companies have used technology created in his Interval Research lab during the 1990s.

It’s easy to look at Allen’s case and draw a conclusion about the nature of so called “patent trolls,” but it isn’t really so simple. When the lawsuit started, Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak was a firm supporter of Allen and patent trolling in general. “I’m not a lawyer, and we’re getting into the legal category, not just the technology category, but I think this lawsuit represents the idea that, you know, ‘hey, patents, individual inventors,’ they don’t have the funds to go up against big companies.” Said Wozniak. He went on to say that he’s not against the idea of patent trolls in general, but made a point to say that it’s not an easy path to take given the resources most big companies have on tap.

It seems Wozniak has had a change of heart though, as his keynote at the Embedded System Conference in Silicon Valley made very clear. “A lot of patents are pretty much not worth that much,” Wozniak told his audience, according to The Register. “In other words, any fifth-grader could come up with the same approach. That patent-troll thing. The other night Paul Allen was speaking at the Computer History Museum and I had four tickets. And I decided at the last minute not to go, because I remembered he’s suing all these companies like Apple and Google – but he’s not suing Microsoft – because he bought all these patents.”

So it seems that Wozniak’s tale about fighting he big evil companies only applies to Apple’s competitors. It seems reasonable that Wozniak would lose respect for Allen, simply because Allen made the exception for suing Microsoft, but to completely flip around his position on patent trolls seems odd to say the least.

At the end of the day it shows how fickle the industry can be—especially in the area of public image. One second you’re a conquering hero, fighting for the little man, the next you’re corporate slime just like everyone else. Whatever the case, patent law is no laughing matter and this whole mess serves as a reminder exactly how valuable it is to choose representatives who know that they’re doing. Regardless of the drama that goes on at the tech-celebrity level, American Patent Agency have the tools and resources to insure you get the credit you deserve for your patent.


This blog is maintained by the American Patent Agency (APA) and is provided as a free resource for those interested in news, tips, and developments in the realm of patents, IP, and inventor support. APA provides the best, fastest, and most affordable patent service available to innovators in Boston as well as several other regions.

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One Response to “Patent News | Apple co-founder calls microsoft co-founder a patent troll”

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