Traditionally the role of the general counsel was most successfully executed as a back room consigliere. More specifically, the general counsel worked on behalf of the company without bringing any attention to the company, the general counsel or the issue at hand. Can you imagine a scenario in which a GC of a publicly traded company would suggest to its shareholders at a board meeting that the U.S. government violated its Fourth Amendment rights? Or, can you imagine a general counsel who, after years of battling against state attorneys general, is now organizing GCs to work with state AGs?
Howard Beale is a fictional character in “Network,” a 1976 movie in which a television network cynically exploits a deranged former anchor’s ravings and revelations about the news media for its own profit. Beale’s tagline was, “I am mad as hell and I am not going to take it anymore!”
The general counsel who is working with a coalition of state attorneys general to go up against patent trolls is Tom Sager. In this issue’s Inside feature (see page 18), Sager says, “Trolls are simply about transferring wealth and not creating it….but we don’t want to reform the system to the point where it undermines what the system was designed to achieve, which is to incentivize research and innovation through the patent system.”
I can say with firsthand experience that Tom and Brad are not deranged like the “Network” character Howard Beale. As a matter of fact, they are just the opposite.