Patent trolls and their effect on security

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Patent trolls and their effect on security

NPEs are limiting IT security innovation.

The specter of patent litigation continues to overshadow the actions of those who work in the technology industry. 

The rise of the non-practicing entity (NPE) has been an especially troubling development. NPEs are firms that usually acquire patents for the sole purpose of generating profit through either litigation or licensing through the threat of lawsuit. 

A wide range of patents, the vague wording present in their descriptions, and the ease with which they may be applied makes it difficult for a company to defend its innovations. As a result, many companies have become more reticent toward development out of fear that they could become a target for costly lawsuits. 

This anxiety has translated into a decreased desire to take the kind of risks necessary to facilitate technological breakthroughs. Technology, by its very definition, requires innovation. And without funding, the march toward new and improved products will be hindered. 

Therein lays the problem: If companies and even governments can't evolve their protective capabilities in line with the intensifying advances of cyber criminals, then the security of some of our most precious information will become increasingly vulnerable.

It is inevitable that companies that are forced to allocate more money to defending against often-spurious claims will have a decreased ability to invest in innovation. This is the opening that potential cyber terrorists need to pursue their goals. 

If a company only seeks to use a patent, the physical embodiment of the spirit of innovation, to improve its bottom line while simultaneously neglecting to use it for the betterment of society, than they must be prepared to be responsible for the inevitable consequences of that decision. This choice must be laid at the doorstep of all who wish to exploit the system without providing anything in return.

Of course, this is not to say that patent litigation is inherently wrong. In the world of intellectual property, it is important that those who have invested time and effort toward an invention receive a reward and protection from anyone who seeks to exploit that invention without compensating the inventor.  

The problem arises when a company collects patents with no desire to use them toward the development of new and better technology. Of course, even practicing entities can be accused of tactics that are stereotypically connected to NPEs.

What's important is that patent litigation should be reserved only for the defense of patents being actively used by the company in pursuit of the realm of technology in which it is involved. Even those NPEs that claim to be collecting patents only for ‘defensive purposes' propagate the problem by accepting the status quo. 

In short, all who fail to utilise and implement their intellectual property run the risk of unintentionally harming internet security.

Copyright © SC Magazine, Australia

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