Two years ago, This American Life (TAL) did some investigative reporting on patent trolls—specifically, one known to be the biggest offender of the U.S. patent system: Intellectual Ventures. While the episode was highly educational and eye-opening, particularly for the general public, which gets little news on the problem, the reporters were unable to answer some of the bigger, specific questions about Intellectual Ventures, how it works and how much money it really makes from its trolling.
Well that was 2011 and this is 2103. The litigation in the specific patent mentioned in the original broadcast is over, and the TAL team, in a joint venture with Planet Money reporters Alex Blumberg and Laura Sydell, got some answers.
But the bigger message to be gleaned from this insightful update to the original broadcast is how really flawed the patent system is. It was a system to foster innovation and creativity, and it has become a tool—particularly in the technology industry—to do just the opposite.
On TAL’s website, you can stream the episode for free—and it’s well worth your 59 minutes. Act One recaps the original broadcast, so it’s unnecessary to go back and listen to that one again. Act Two offers up some long overdue answers to the complex legal questions surrounding Intellectual Ventures and other patent trolling in general.
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