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Massachusetts Targets Patent Trolls

By William Vogeler, Esq. | Last updated on

Our story begins with Carbonite, best known as the icy preservative of Han Solo in "The Empire Strikes Back."

Only in this story, Carbonite is the name of a data backup company. It's not quite a Star Wars story, but there are trolls -- patent trolls.

According to reports, Carbonite has spent millions fighting false patent infringement claims and become a hero in the industry for not giving up. Now Sen. Eric P. Lesser is joining an alliance for legislation to stop such attacks in "the other Silicon Valley" -- Massachusetts.

Threat of Trolls

Although Carbonite won a key case, research says patent trolls continue to cost the tech industry billions of dollars each year. They buy patents only to litigate, and often force small companies into settlements.

In Massachusetts, Lesser has introduced legislation to stop bad faith patent lawsuits. He says trolls will be liable for damages, including lost business opportunities.

"Congress, which traditionally regulates intellectual property, has sat on their hands," he says. "There are still no federal rules in place to protect innovators from trolls."

While many states have stepped into the void, Lesser says Massachusetts is the second Silicon Valley and is focused on protecting startups.

Small Business Impact

Researchers say that such anti-troll laws have especially helped small tech firms. In 32 states, they found an average 2% increasing in hiring and even more financing power.

"Financing is a key channel driving our findings: In states with an established VC presence, anti-troll laws increase the number of firms receiving VC funding by 14 percent," writes Ian Appel from Boston College, Carroll School of Management.

Meanwhile, Carbonite continues to fight the patent trolls. According to Ars Technica, the company is a target of a "major patent-trolling network called IP Edge."

In that case, the Electronic Frontier Foundation named the patent its March "Stupid Patent of the Month: Storing Files in Folders."

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