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Blackberries and Barnyards: Patent Trolls and the Perils of Innovation

  • Author(s): Magliocca, Gerard N
  • et al.

This Essay provides some perspective on the troll issue by pointing out a historical parallel that has received no attention. It turns out that these opportunistic licensors were also active in the nineteenth century. Called “patent sharks,” they bought dormant agricultural patents and then sued farmers who were unknowingly using protected technology. This brass knuckles tactic outraged rural activists and led to the same calls for sweeping patent reform that we hear now. At that time, the growth of sharks was blamed on excessive patent remedies, incompetent examiners, and the lack of compulsory licensing. Today, many of the same alleged defects are being blamed for the explosion in trolls. That comparison suggests the counterintuitive point that simple farm inventions from the past can shed light on our current troubles with high-tech patents.

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