Inventors are NOT patent trolls and they are NOT the problem


Fred Sawyer

Powerful interests have been constantly pushing for patent reform for at least the last 10 years, both in the Courts and in the Halls of Congress. Little by little over the past 10 years rights have been stripped away from innovators, thereby making patents weaker and less appealing. At the same time those forces that would prefer a weaker patent system engage in misrepresentation, sometimes so severely misrepresenting reality that one has to wonder whether there is malice involved.

The never ending public relations campaign by patent infringers has turned public sentiment, and many Members of Congress, against innovators. Indeed, anyone who owns a patent and has the audacity to try and enforce the rights granted to them by the Federal Government is vilified as a patent troll. The imagery of a troll ready to jump out from under a bridge to attack poor defenseless multinational, multi-billion dollar a years companies has captured the imagination and turned the public against the true underdogs — inventors.

I recently learned of a gentleman by the name of Fred Sawyer. I interviewed Sawyer on Monday, March 9, 2015, and the transcript of our conversation appears below.

By any reasonable definition Sawyer is a true American hero. He served our country for many years, received numerous medals, and eventually retired as a full colonel. Sawyer is also an inventor, and he is no doubt an inventor a great renown even if you haven’t ever heard his name before. Sawyer played an integral role in the development of the strategic missile defense system, which is more commonly known as Star Wars.

After leaving the military Sawyer, an inventor at heart, continued to invent. He holds a respectable patent portfolio in the RFID space, and as you might expect his patents are in at least some ways fundamental, which means there is ongoing infringement. Sadly, despite the fact that Sawyer is a true gentleman and a real American hero there are many that characterize him as a patent troll, which seems to be a truly ridiculous characterization.

As you will see below, Sawyer explains that he just wants to license the innovations he created for a reasonable price. He has bet everything he has on his innovations, investing his life savings and inheritance too, and the companies that are infringing won’t even talk to him unless he first sues them. This is the reality for inventors and small businesses, one that surprisingly is not told in the popular press.

Before you are ready to buy into the myth about poor defenseless multinational, multi-billion dollar companies that claim they are being bullied by innovators you really need to read the interview below. What actually transpires in industries bears little or no relationship to what is alleged in carefully crafted PR campaigns. So, without further ado, here is my interview with Fred Sawyer.


QUINN: Thank, Fred, for taking the time to chat with me today I really appreciate it. You are an inventor with patents yourself and you have had a long career as an inventor so I thought maybe we could have a conversation about the path you took to becoming an inventor, getting involved in startup operations and the trials and tribulations you have experienced with respect to trying to license your innovations. Where did your journey as an inventor begin?

SAWYER: First Gene, let me thank you for taking your valuable time to talk with me. It started in Norfolk, Virginia where I was raised. I attended Booker T. Washington High School in Norfolk and thereafter attended Virginia State University on a football scholarship, where I majored in physics. This was quite a combination, don’t you think?


SAWYER: Virginia State is classified as a HBCU. I was a pretty good football player at Virginia State, and I was inducted into the Virginia State University Sports’ Hall of Fame and also the Hampton Roads African-American Sports’ Hall of Fame in Tidewater. By the way, I was a late draft pick of the old Chicago Cardinals football team, now the Arizona Cardinals of the NFL. And I was invited to their training camp. However, having been a ROTC cadet in college, I was ordered to active duty in the Army and sent off to Vietnam. Now, I am a retired Army full Colonel. I was an Airborne/Ranger, having served two combat tours in Vietnam and having served in the 82nd Airborne Division and 18th Airborne Corps. So I am a decorated veteran. I was awarded the Legion of Merit, which is one of the highest military awards, and a host of bronze stars. And more importantly I worked on the United States “Star Wars” program that helped dismantle the old Soviet empire in the 1980s.

I had some great jobs while in the military, and I worked with some well-known people. I served as chief of staff for the “Star Wars” Missile Defense Program Office where I got a great deal of ballistic missile training. I worked in the same office at the Pentagon with Colonel Wesley Clark. The same Wesley Clark who later became a four-star general as Supreme NATO Commander. I also had the opportunity to meet and work with General Colin Powell on several occasions. I was a military assistant in the Office of the Secretary of the Army, and I was detailed as a military action officer in the Reagan’s White House. Lastly, I am a graduate of the Industrial College of the Armed Forces, one of the military’s most senior service schools. My educational background includes three master’s degrees and a Ph.D., with concentrations primarily in electrical engineering and queuing theory.

QUINN: So when during this career did you embark on becoming a private sector inventor?

SAWYER: After leaving the military, I worked as a program manager and senior engineer with GE Aerospace in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania. During the late 1980s, I helped develop an advanced inertial navigation system for the Cruise Missile and other missile programs. This was important work that led my invention, and I will tell you why in a few minutes. My inertial navigation expertise led to other opportunities when I started my own engineering firm. And during the early 1990s, my first opportunities with my new engineering firm was as a program manager and technical director. I designed, engineered, and implemented some large radar and communications sites throughout the Caribbean in our country’s war against drugs.

Around 1995, because of my inertial navigation experience, I was awarded a contract with the U.S. Department of Transportation to track trains, especially in tunnels, using radio frequency transponders and inertial navigation technology. During the course of this work, I recognized the vast potential of radio frequency identification, now called RFID, to also track objects and people in real time. This was my inspiration to build something new and exciting. So around 1999, I began to concentrate solely on RFID.

Very briefly, RFID is the use of radio waves to read and capture information that is stored on a transponder or a tag which is in turn attached to an object or a person. I believe that RFID will eventually replace bar coding because RFID can be used at much greater distances, and it has no line-of-sight limitations. So to carry on, during the early days of RFID, when I devoted my attention to RFID at the turn of the century, the major players in RFID were concerned with proprietary reader-tag protocols in order to collect data; namely to get the protocols working and to get longer read ranges between the reader and tags. The readers at that time were dumb readers. And they could only read tags, nothing else. So my focus was on attaching some intelligence to each tag as tags were being read by the hundreds or by the thousands in near-real time. I just wanted to create some technologies for RFID utility applications.

I conceived and started to reduce to practice a physical embodiment of my invention in 1999. My prototype was fully operational in July, I think, of 2001 and I filed a provisional patent that contained a fair amount of technical disclosure in July of 2002. I was granted my first patent in August 2005. In developing my patents in RFID I brought to bear bits and pieces from most of my training, education and experiences over the years. Some of our patents provide for an infrastructure of readers, transponders, antennas, processors, communications, and supporting equipment throughout a facility or open area and the processes for generating low-level actionable event data from raw tag data for identifying, tracking, locating, and surveillance of tagged objects and people in near-real time.

QUINN: By what you have described to me, it sounds like you are a war hero that has been an incredibly successful inventor in the private sector. It does not sound like you are a scary person, or the type of person one might find living under a bridge and ready to jump out at somebody. Yet in many places you are considered a troll, a patent troll. How does that happen? How does somebody like yourself go from all you have done for our country to being so vilified in the media and with many people believing that you are just a greedy troll that does not deserve anything? Once upon a time inventors were celebrated and it just seems like we have gone so far astray.

SAWYER: Yes, you are right about that and that is a shame. I do not consider myself as a patent troll. We are not a patent bully. We would just like to license our inventions straight up just like IBM and the other folks. As I stated before I have nine patents and two foreign patents. I have another patent pending. I believe we have a portfolio of quality patents which are based on my RFID prototype. I won a major RFID contract with the Army in 2005 and I have been involved with RFID technology for over 15 years. I spent my life savings, family inheritance in developing and patenting the technology and also in attempting to commercialize the technology.

QUINN: Tell us about your attempts to commercialize and what challenges you have faced.

SAWYER: I think RFID applications are unlimited. It is used in healthcare; for example, in hospitals they are using RFID to locate and track equipment, patients and staff. The DOD is using RFID to locate and track equipment and supplies. On the commercial side, RFID is used for logistics and supply chain visibility in warehouses and distribution centers. And in retail, RFID is rapidly replacing bar coding providing for real-time item-level inventory tracking. Even Disney is using RFID for access of guests to different venues in its theme parks.

So in 2005, I was one of the first to win a passive RFID contract with the Department of Defense. This contract was with the Army, which was the DOD’s executive agent for RFID at the time. My RFID technology, as reflected in my prototype at that point, was much farther along than that of my competitors like Lockheed-Martin and IBM. In fact, my prototype was instrumental in award of the DOD contract. However, as has happened all the time in the service, rivalries and politics amongst the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps prevented this RFID work from moving forward at the time. And this was painful for me. I had to lay off my staff, repay a bank loan with my personal savings, and this great opportunity slipped away from me and prevented me from commercializing my prototype at the time. After all of this, my personal funds were almost depleted.

The environment for us was sort of grim in 2006. And at that point I wanted to try and expand the use of RFID technology. I tried to license my technology early on to other firms. In most cases I was ignored. I transported and demonstrated my prototype to firms and potential investors in New York City, Michigan and Arizona but with no luck. So hence I knew that I needed some help in order to take advantage of my patent.

So in 2007, Adam Malamut and two others joined me to form a new company called ATS, LLC. Adam brought new life into the company. He was very ambitious and he could get things done. The purpose of this new firm was to license our technology. As time went on, when we attended RFID conferences and exhibits, we began to observe large companies actually using the technology that is taught and claimed in our patents. Here is a typical scenario that we faced in trying to license our technology. Around 2009 we were dealing with a large company in Atlanta in an attempt to license our technology. We made several trips to Atlanta to negotiate with the company over a period of more than six months. In the end that company told us that they were going to take the offer of a larger company that would indemnify them and protect them from claims of patent infringement. For us, this scenario would repeat itself again and again with other companies. We felt that much larger companies were using our technology, making money, and running roughshod over us. So our intention was to promote the adoption of RFID. However, after exhausting our resources and being turned away in favor of big companies that were using our technology, our choices were to pack it in or enforce our patents through litigation.

QUINN: Yes, and that is one of the things that a lot of people do not understand. I think in part, it is because companies do a good job of trying to hide that reality. As you know their lobbyist will often say, “if only we had the opportunity to talk to these people we would, but we get sued without warning.” In fact, what is really going on is their attorneys just will outright refuse to talk to you unless you sue them first. It is a very difficult place to be for an innovator who is just looking for a reasonable royalty for what they have created.

SAWYER: Absolutely. And this has happened over and over again for us.

QUINN: So if you had an opportunity to chat with a member of Congress who might be considering the Innovation Act in the House, for example, what would you like to share with them?

SAWYER: Well, compared to large companies, the independent inventor is already at a disadvantage. As has happened in my case, the large companies can steal your patented technology, make a great deal of money, ignore you all together, and then have the resources, the vast resources in most cases, to delay your enforcement actions or actually destroy your patents by any means necessary. So the only recourse left for me and others like me is to bring suite to protect my invention – my intellectual property rights. However, the loser pay clause in HR 9 would be a showstopper for me. Bringing a suit against a patent infringer would be too much of a risk for me and my family now and I’ve already used my life savings and family inheritance and hard work for over 15 years plus the untold impact on my family just to develop and maintain my patents. I just do not believe the independent inventor is the problem.

QUINN: I agree with you. I think that the fee shifting is very problematic because the unfortunate reality is that the big companies will wind up settling with people with low quality patents and those are the ones that patent legislation is allegedly trying to deal with. But people, such as yourself, who have patents that have good priority dates, a lot of disclosure and there is some real reason to believe that there’s infringement, they’ll just litigate as long as it takes in order to win. Have you experienced that kind of situation where the bigger companies are just forcing you to engage in a protracted litigation before they are ever even really going to seriously talk to you?

SAWYER: Yes, we’ve experienced that. It took us almost a year and a half in a fast-paced, “rocket court” in Virginia and finally that company came to the table and settled with us.  But it was a very difficult road. We spent a lot of money and we do not have a lot of resources. So it is unfortunate, but this effectively disincentives the innovation and invention by the small inventor. Big business will be able to, more easily, steal and profit from the hard work, innovation, and sacrifices of others.

QUINN: What is this doing for your continuing appetite to try and innovate?

SAWYER: One thing that helps me is that I am a retired guy and I got an Army pension and that is keeping me going. I am very interested in making things work, in innovation. I get out of bed and that’s what I want to do every day. So that’s what keeps me going.

QUINN: I really appreciate you taking the time to talk with me Fred. I think your story is a good one to tell to get people to understand that there are an awful lot of innovators who find it exceptionally difficult to make a living innovating when large companies are willing to ignore patent rights.

SAWYER: Right! Gene, I’m glad to have the opportunity to use your platform to tell the small inventor’s side of the story, a story that needs to be told to all who care to listen. Thanks so much for the interview.

Updated March 22, 2015, to correct an error in the transcription. Changed “could see they” to “conceived.” 


Warning & Disclaimer: The pages, articles and comments on do not constitute legal advice, nor do they create any attorney-client relationship. The articles published express the personal opinion and views of the author as of the time of publication and should not be attributed to the author’s employer, clients or the sponsors of

Join the Discussion

33 comments so far.

  • [Avatar for Ron Hilton]
    Ron Hilton
    March 23, 2015 02:55 pm

    Angry Dude, I mean a shelf life in terms of novelty. And based on my own sad experience I certainly agree that companies of all sizes take a dim view of independent inventors and their patents. But it has also been my experience that settlements are possible, if not on the best terms for the little guy. But it is better to avoid an adversarial posture in the first place if you can, along the lines I described in comment 30 above.

  • [Avatar for angry dude]
    angry dude
    March 23, 2015 01:04 pm

    “New ideas have a definite shelf life”

    Ron, does Fast Fourier Transform have a shelf life ?

    How about RSA cryptography algorithm (the enabling technology behind all
    e-commerce and zillions other things)
    Or that fictional super-duper lossless compression algorithm from HBO’s “Silicon Valley” sitcom ?

    I don’t think so: those types of things have eternal value

    But unfortunately patents do have a shelf life of 20 years

  • [Avatar for angry dude]
    angry dude
    March 23, 2015 12:34 pm


    I offered very cheap exclusive license to g* company and also offered them to sue a* company (which was actively suing g* company for patent infringement at the time) through one of a* company key component suppliers.
    Plus, I offered exclusive license to a big asian h* company to sue same a* company (which was beating the crap out of h* company in US patent courts at the time)
    The outcome ?
    Zero money for me
    a* company dropped their key component supplier (67% drop in supplier’s stock) and settled with h* company within few weeks
    I never even wrote to a* company
    My only guess is that they all hate small patent holders and those big CEOs talk to each regularly despite continuously suing each other for patent infringement

    It’s a class struggle – rich get richer and poor stay poor regardless of their patents

    Read Karl Marx

    Well, at least I got out unscathed

    Today I would be liable for their legal fees

  • [Avatar for Ron Hilton]
    Ron Hilton
    March 23, 2015 11:30 am

    My advice to anyone would be to not wait until a patent is issued to start marketing it or seeking investors to commercialize it. New ideas have a definite shelf life, and others will probably think of something similar around the same time. So it is important to be first to file, and also to be first to market. If someone else markets it first, even if they didn’t get or even file for a patent, they will be resentful that someone else scooped “their” original idea. A patent infringement lawsuit becomes the most likely result at that point. I always file a provisional patent application as soon as possible, and then use that first year of pendency to start the commercialization process, or at least some “market research” to decide whether to take the next steps. The patent application is just for protection/”insurance” – it’s there just in case, to protect your disclosure, but you hope not to have to use it. Then you approach potential partners/licensees from a business perspective, with no mention of inventions or patents to get their legal department excited. They will typically tell you that anything you share is assumed to be non-confidential, and in fact make you sign a waiver to that effect, which you should agree to do. But just make sure to mention in passing that you have a pending patent on the technology, so they don’t get blindsided later. It’s a delicate dance you have to do.

  • [Avatar for Paul Morinville]
    Paul Morinville
    March 23, 2015 07:46 am

    Mine, of course, are SAWS patents so it took 7 years for the first to issue. Unfortunately, “pioneering” inventions are deliberately delayed by the PTO. Naturally, it is impossible to know if the patents are truly SAWS patents, because the PTO neither confirms or denies it. But they went into nowhere land for a year after the notice of allowance with no way to find out what the delay was. It can be assumed that SAWS was the reason.

    Without claims, there is nothing to sell. By the time I got my first patent, it was a multi-billion dollar market.

  • [Avatar for Ron Hilton]
    Ron Hilton
    March 23, 2015 01:20 am

    Did you have chance to approach the marketing department of any of the companies before they infringed? I think once it becomes a discussion of an infringed invention with the legal department, rather than a product partnership with the business unit, a lawsuit is probably the only alternative.

  • [Avatar for Paul Morinville]
    Paul Morinville
    March 23, 2015 12:51 am

    I tried to sell the most critical patents individually or the whole portfolio all together to all of the largest infringers. Contacted them by email, certified mail, in person and through attorneys. They want nothing to do with it. That’s how it works.

  • [Avatar for Ron Hilton]
    Ron Hilton
    March 23, 2015 12:38 am

    Just to be clear, has the patent been offered to be assigned or licensed exclusively to a single licensee, or have all of the licensing discussions been on non-exclusive terms?

  • [Avatar for Paul Morinville]
    Paul Morinville
    March 22, 2015 10:04 pm

    Ron, don’t be surprised. This is the world we live in. These big corporations don’t care and they have the money and power to influence Washington to even further weaken patents. I’m pissed.

  • [Avatar for Ron Hilton]
    Ron Hilton
    March 22, 2015 12:25 am

    I find it surprising that out of hundreds of would-be infringers, not one would be interested in an exclusive license to or assignment of the patent as a competitive weapon against so many competitors. But you are right that the situations I have personally been involved with have not been of that nature.

  • [Avatar for Paul Morinville]
    Paul Morinville
    March 18, 2015 08:19 pm

    Send me a note Angry Dude. I could use your story in Washington. [email protected]

  • [Avatar for angry dude]
    angry dude
    March 18, 2015 08:14 pm

    mine are even worse – they are of “piped piper” kind – numerical algorithms
    Just imagine legal bills and the battle of hired PhDs “experts” in court
    Then at the very end they say to the judge and jury: we have 50 million lines of code and this dude might only own 50 lines at most
    How much money does he deserve ?
    The only way to determine patent value is to have them remove those 50 lines and see how their product works and sells

  • [Avatar for Paul Morinville]
    Paul Morinville
    March 18, 2015 04:58 pm

    Ron, I’ve found a lot of companies who are as excited as commercializing my inventions as I am. In fact, there are hundreds of them out there for virtually all of my inventions except one, and that one is next. They just aren’t licensees. And they won’t become licensees becasue the patent system is dead for inventors. That’s the reality.

    You recommend doing a start up. It’s pretty hard to compete with huge enterprise software companies to displace their systems already installed on customers.

    I appreciate you go-go attitude, but I think it’s clear that we are in completely different spaces. If I were trying to be the next big social media platform, maybe I agree with you. But mine are technical inventions that have become the core enabling technologies of enterprise systems and are massively infringed. These are two different worlds.

  • [Avatar for Ron Hilton]
    Ron Hilton
    March 18, 2015 04:40 pm

    Angry dude, I can sympathize as my first startup was involved in an expensive legal battle with a major industry player. It was finally settled when they acquired the company, albeit on less favorable terms than we had previously been offered by others. But it was more or less a success. My point is that a small startup that is able to mount at least a credible threat of commercializing a patented technology has much more leverage and potential value than an individual patent-holder standing alone.

    Paul, you are right that putting together a startup company is not easy and good team members can be hard to come by, but the potential rewards are commensurately greater. I too yearn for the good old days when a patent alone was a marketable asset, but it is hard to find licensees who care as much about commercializing your invention as you do. You have to at least get the process started. Finding a strong entrepreneurial partner like Fred found in Adam is important. That partner will justifiably want a sizable equity stake in the venture, but if they want cash up front, turn and run the other way.

  • [Avatar for Paul Morinville]
    Paul Morinville
    March 18, 2015 04:31 pm

    Yes. Angry dude. I am also radioactive in the market I invented. That’s how it works. Not only for employment, but also for approaching partners. One met with me and then told the guy who set the initial meeting that they could not talk to me anymore after consulting with their law firm. They said I was patent trolling.

    A fun life… that of an inventor.

  • [Avatar for angry dude]
    angry dude
    March 18, 2015 04:06 pm


    Of course I filed patent application before presenting stuff at conferences.
    I knew that patent was due and patent office agreed (after 1 office action)
    About compensation…
    No, I cannot get a job at those infinging companies or even at a university working on similar stuff – I am a toxic asset, they wouldnt touch me with a 6-foot pole
    If I knew better I would keep the thing secret and tried to start a little low profile software company based on copyright and trade secret protection
    But those were the good old days long before Ebay decision, so how could I possibly know ?
    Now it’s too late for this particular thing – it’s all over the place and they wouldn;t give me a dime for some inferior nonintegrated (compared to theirs) implementation

    Ever watched “Silicon valley” on HBO ?
    In real life that little “Pied Piper” startup would be run over by Hooli and left peniless
    But then we wouldn’t have a second season, so they had to come up with that impossible story of founder rewriting software engine internals and changing the bussiness niche the last night before techcrunch competition (while other team members were exchanging d1ck jokes in anticipation of inevitable dissolutuion of their little startup)
    there is one simple rule: when dealing with large companies there is no free lunch unless you are that lunch

  • [Avatar for Paul Morinville]
    Paul Morinville
    March 18, 2015 03:31 pm

    Ron, “Selling or licensing standalone IP has always been a tough slog.” I think that’s true for the last 10 or so years. Maybe longer. It is not true historically. In fact, those infringing or planning to infringe went out and bought up as many patents as they could throughout most of the history of the patent system. It’s a recent phenomenon, and I think the key to the troll issue.

    The drivers that make patent purchasing before infringement happen have been eroded. There are no injunctions for all practical purposes for inventors. Injunctive relief does two things. First it adds risk to an company planning to infringe. They could lose all of the investment put into it and this provides incentive to deal with the inventor before infringing.

    Second, it is possible to estimate the market for an invention when the invention is created. It’s a bit subjective, but financial analysts do this sort of thing all the time and there are ways to get close. However, it is not possible to estimate the value of a forced license awarded by some judge or jury in an unknown court. That’s called a crap shoot.

    I’d venture to say that most inventors have no real assets other than a patent. You had mentioned that it is important to build a team. I’m in a working class steel town. There just aren’t very many enterprise middleware people here and no tech start ups in which to draw talent and experience. In order to attract a team to come to this town, I have something more than an idea. I need a least a product and potentially a customer or two to show what I’m attempting to create works and is marketable. That of course would take some seed capital because I don’t have any money.

    That brings me back to investors. Nobody can put a value on a patent today. One, as previously discussed, the very concept of whether it is a good or bad patent is abstract due to 101’s abstract idea. Two, even if it was not abstract, there is no way to value a patent because everyone has to guess what a court will do.

    If you can’t value an asset and that asset is the only one available to collateralize for investment, it’s difficult to get investment. Because there is no real threat of injunctive relief, the market gets saturated by infringing companies who take the market with money and speed. Often they just update their existing customer base with the stolen technology. That leave the inventor with no other recourse than to enforce the patent rights, now with no product and no intention to build a product.

    This is the real world. The problem is not trolls. It is weak patent rights. That is what creates trolls. That is what needs to be fixed.

  • [Avatar for Ron Hilton]
    Ron Hilton
    March 18, 2015 02:45 pm

    Angry dude, I would like to hear your answer to your own question – why would you publish the details and provide a prototype without first obtaining patent protection, if you hope to be compensated someday? How do you expect to be compensated? If your goal was to share your software for free with the world and gain the respect of your professional peers, then it sounds like you succeeded. But if your goal was compensation, about the best you can expect may be to get a good job on the strength of your improved resume. Maybe that is all you wanted as a personal goal, but it is not going to attract any investment to help start a new venture where you help create jobs for others, rather than hope to simply get a good job for yourself.

  • [Avatar for angry dude]
    angry dude
    March 18, 2015 02:36 pm


    You are not living in the real world.

    “Vague” patent claims are legal constructs and nothing more (for comparison, fine print legal disclaimers to e.g. your insurance policies are no less vague to ordinary people)

    Any deserving inventor has at least a working prototype (e.g. software-implemented) and, in my case, it was published several times in the biggest IEEE and other international conferences and duscussed all over the internet

    Why would I publish all the technical details and provide a working prototype for download without hope of being compensated for the effort someday ?

    And you might have to reconsider your “IP-based” startup strategy very soon if this sh1t passes in congress…

    seriosly dude, I am not joking

  • [Avatar for Ron Hilton]
    Ron Hilton
    March 18, 2015 02:13 pm

    As a founder of one successful IP-based startup and currently working on my second one, I am not just spouting theory. Selling or licensing standalone IP has always been a tough slog. But as an enabling basis for a high-tech startup venture, patents are still a very important element, and could factor heavily into a successful exit. Inventors who privately gloat over their ideas, dreaming that the world will somehow beat a path to their door based on vague, cryptic claims are the ones not living in the real world.

  • [Avatar for angry dude]
    angry dude
    March 18, 2015 10:57 am


    You are absolutely right

    The joinder provision applied to investors is INSANE

    I just don’t understand how it could possibly be applied ?
    e.g. large publicly traded companies ?
    are they going to downgrade stock price based on legal fees ?


  • [Avatar for Paul Morinville]
    Paul Morinville
    March 18, 2015 10:46 am

    Today, patents are meaningless for investment and most can’t attract investors or contingency law firms for enforcement.

    Ron, I think you are living in a theory of the patent system not the reality of it.

  • [Avatar for angry dude]
    angry dude
    March 18, 2015 10:45 am


    No corporation will buy your patent – validity is not even an issue here
    Call it corporate solidarity – they just hate small inventors – patent holders and will not give you a dime for your patent

    I tried to sell mine at ICAP auction years ago (after special invitation – you can assume the patent was researched by them)

    In the good old days of Ocean Tomo (before they were bought by ICAP) they used to sell some patents and for quite a bit of money

    But then things in patent world got so bad that there were literally no bidders for 95% of their lots. And they had some good patents there..

    Nowdays they are reduced to closed corporate transactions

    There is no market in patents

  • [Avatar for Paul Morinville]
    Paul Morinville
    March 18, 2015 10:44 am

    There is another reason to never file a patent. If H.R,9, the “Innovation” Act goes through with its joinder provision to loser pay, an investor will look at patents like liabilities. If an investor invests in a company to build a product and that company later sues for patent infringement and loses, the investor, while really investing in a product company, is liable for the legal costs of the lost patent infringement case.

    This could be a company that had no patents at the time of the investment or a company that had patents but did not intend to enforce them at the time of investment. Think about what that does. It makes investing any start-up that has or could have patents radioactive for investors.

  • [Avatar for angry dude]
    angry dude
    March 18, 2015 10:28 am

    “A good patent is only one element of a successful startup ”


    we might be living in times when good patent brings a failure to a successfull startup

    Why publicly disclose any valuable technical details in patent application if patent can’t be enforced ?

    said but true

  • [Avatar for angry dude]
    angry dude
    March 18, 2015 10:22 am


    In “ideal” world a company can buy good valid patent from small patent holder and enforce it against major competitors. This was my line of thinking when I filed my patent back in early 2000s: even if I fail to commercialize it myself some company would eventually buy it from me – it’s a lot cheaper than inventing competing tech in-house or designing around patent claims, plus the patent is already granted and can be immediately enforced

    Well, in this world no company will touch you or you patent with a 6-foot pole: instead they will gang together to destroy you financially.

    Welcome to the real world, dude…

  • [Avatar for Ron Hilton]
    Ron Hilton
    March 17, 2015 10:59 am

    Paul, It is true that the skill set to be an inventor is not the same as that of an entrepreneur. But if the inventor is willing to partner with an entrepreneur (for example the way Fred partnered with Adam in this case) then a startup venture may be possible. You have to be willing to give up a degree of control and share the risk/reward with a team. A good patent is only one element of a successful startup – essential, but by no means complete. There is a lot that goes into starting a business, and assembling the right team is the single most important thing. Selling or licensing the IP then becomes one of several potential exit strategies – not the most lucrative, but it is an option.

  • [Avatar for Paul Morinville]
    Paul Morinville
    March 17, 2015 10:35 am

    Ron, Until someone can define what an abstract idea is in concrete terms, there is no way to know what is a weak or strong patent. That itself has become an abstract concept.

    Unless you have experience successfully starting up new technology companies or you have a lot of money, you need to leverage assets to attract capital. Unfortunately, for the reason stated above, patent assets are too abstract to attract start up capital.

    It’s circular.

  • [Avatar for Ron Hilton]
    Ron Hilton
    March 17, 2015 10:23 am

    Paul, if the patent can’t be enforced because it is a weak patent, then its value is low anyway. If it is a high-value patent but the cost (and risk) of litigation is beyond the resources of the inventor, then maybe a good deal is possible. But it is true that IP by itself, whether sold or licensed, commands only a fraction of the value of commercialized technology based upon that IP. A successful start-up venture will also bring greater returns. The higher the risk, the higher the reward (or the bigger the failure…).

  • [Avatar for Paul Morinville]
    Paul Morinville
    March 17, 2015 09:43 am

    Ron, My experience is they will pay close to nothing for it. Why should they? They can infringe without paying and there is no threat of injunctive relief.

    They could buy the patents to enforce, but they suffer from the same invalidation issues as anyone else. If a patent can’t be enforced, it isn’t worth much. I’d rather let mine rot than sell for next to nothing.

  • [Avatar for Ron Hilton]
    Ron Hilton
    March 17, 2015 09:28 am

    In the case of multiple infringers, I wonder if another strategy would be to sell the patented technology to one of the major infringing practicing entities, who might have the motivation and the resources to enforce the patents against their competitors.

  • [Avatar for SO]
    March 16, 2015 02:12 pm

    I am surprised Mr. Sawyer hasn’t received a DJ action yet for simply offering to license his patents. The standard for DJ actions has gone from one extreme to another extreme. Now, NPEs and other patent owners are encouraged to file a complaint first before beginning discussions.

  • [Avatar for Paul Morinville]
    Paul Morinville
    March 16, 2015 12:02 pm

    I’d say it is an unbelievable inventor story of the complete failure of government to protect inventors, but that would be a lie. The story is certainly believable and it happens all the time.

    What’s unbelievable to me is that our government would fail this particular inventor, a war hero and developer of our missile defense system, who we all owe a debt of gratitude.

Varsity Sponsors

IPWatchdog Events

Patent Portfolio Management Masters™ 2024
June 24 @ 1:00 pm - June 26 @ 2:00 pm EDT
Webinar – Sponsored by LexisNexis
August 22 @ 12:00 pm - 1:00 pm EDT
Women’s IP Forum
August 26 @ 11:00 am - August 27 @ 5:00 pm EDT
IP Solutions, Services & Platforms Expo
September 9 @ 1:00 pm - September 10 @ 2:00 pm EDT

From IPWatchdog