Sunday, May 14, 2006

On a more serious note....

Patent trolls have been in the North American headlines recently because of the NTP v. RIM case.
With the increasing recognition of intellectual property as a valuable asset, it is no surprise that patent trolls are, well, trolling.

I came across a fascinating article today that cites examples of universities acting as patent trolls.

While that may be true, I can't help but wonder whether the implications of universities (educational and research institutions) acting like patent trolls are different than those of private companies formed specifically for the purpose of trolling for patents.

After all, if the funding that universities obtain from patents are diverted back into education and research, then do they truly fit the definition of the troll? (The definition of the term is what has been abuzzing the IP blogs recently, as you will note from the article.)

Thus, the defition may include some form of note about intentions. But, as most philosophers and lawyers know, defining intentions can be a slippery slope to protracted arguments with no definitive answers.

Also (with regard to "intentions"), I wonder: if patent trolls whose primary role is to acquire and retain patents with developing them, were to donate a portion of their proceeds back to educational institutions, whether their "good intentions" would mitigate some of the uproar against them. (My guess is not, by the way.)

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