The First Patent Troll
Henry Ford detested patents. In part, this came from the fact that a clever patent attorney named George Selden got the first patent (US Pat. No. #549,160) on an automobile. Mr. Seldon never built an automobile, yet he collected royalties for all American car manufactures for years. Mr. Seldon may be the first large scale non-practicing entity – or ‘patent troll’.
A patent is valid no matter who its owner is. Patent validity does not depend upon the owner of the patent being a leading manufacture – or participate in manufacturing in any way whatever. Yet, for some reason there remains an army of people who feel that it is somehow unfair for a person to own and enforce a patent when they do not themselves practice in the art of which the patent pertains. This feeling of ‘dirty play’ with regard to those who enforce patents while not being themselves in the industry led to the term ‘patent troll’. It remains the case that any owner of a patent, however obtained, has the same right to enforce that patent as those who are leading industrialists.
Patent Enforcement Business
Unfortunately, due to the exceptionally high values placed upon some patent portfolios, there remains great incentive to amass a patent collection and enforce that against those companies who are engaged in the business of producing goods to consumers. It is a HUGE burden and quite unfair indeed. Nevertheless, these are the realities of the system in which we operate and it appears that it will remain an imperfection in our patent laws. The patent troll is here to stay.