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EFF coalition calls for crowdsourcing effort to fight patent trolls

Electronic Frontier Foundation helps launch TrollingEffects.org

By Paul McNamara on Wed, 07/31/13 - 1:51pm.

patent

In its latest effort to combat patent trolls, the Electronic Frontier Foundation is leading a group organizations and law schools to launch a new online resource called Trolling Effects that will crowdsource data - including demand letters - with the goal of enabling true innovators to resist bogus legal threats.

From an EFF press release:

"Patent trolls will no longer be able to hide under a cloak of legal darkness," EFF Activist Adi Kamdar said. "Trolling Effects will shine a light on companies that abuse the patent system to shake down innovators."

Patent trolls use the threat of expensive and lengthy patent litigation to extort settlements from innovators large and small. Because the majority of these threats never become lawsuits, most of the threatening letters never show up in public dockets.

In June, the White House joined calls from Congress for more transparency around demand letters. Trolling Effects aims to provide that transparency. The site will allow demand-letter recipients to post the documents online, find letters received by others, and research who is really behind the threats. The site also features comprehensive guides to the patent system and a blueprint for patent reform. Journalists, academics, and policy makers will find the site a one-stop resource for researching the patent system.

The site already contains a number of demand letters, which you can see here.

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The FAQ section provides a rundown of patent basics, including: "How can I tell if the letter is from a patent troll?"

There is a difference between a company that asserts their patents in order to protect a product and a company that does so solely in order to extort money through threats of litigation. There is a chance that the claim you've received is legitimate, and ideally this is where Trolling Effects will come in handy. You can search our database by sender or patent number to see if there have been any claims similar to yours. Oftentimes, trolls distribute their patents among a network of shell companies in order to deliberately make it difficult to track who owns what.

In addition to EFF, members of the Trolling Effects coalition include: Application Developers Alliance, Ask Patents, Engelberg Center on Innovation Law & Policy at NYU School of Law, Engine Advocacy, Public Knowledge, PUBPAT, and the Samuelson Law, Technology & Public Policy Clinic at Berkeley Law.

The EFF has long taken aim at patent trolls, primarily through its Patent Busting Project. In May, the watchdog group announced a separate effort to identify the "prior art" needed to challenge a patent being wielded against podcasters.

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