One of America's leading authorities on technology and telecom policy, Motley is a writer, television and radio commentator, political and policy strategist, lecturer, debater, activist, and policy advisor to The Heartland Institute.
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Behold Mark Cuban – a wildly successful entrepreneur. He in 1995 co-founded Broadcast.com – and in 1999 Yahoo! way overpaid $5.7 billion for it. Ever since, Cuban has in Donald Trump-like fashion built himself into a brand – The Entrepreneur. Like Trump, he loves embodying the pursuit of professional victories. Like Trump, he turned his doing-business-vision into a high-ratings network television show (well, Trump turned his into two). The similarities exist even in sports. Cuban owns the NBA’s Dallas Mavericks – Trump rolled the dice entrepreneur-style on the New Jersey Generals in the NFL-challenging USFL (hey, you can’t win them all).
Don’t let anyone tell you we Americans don’t like winners. Though the Left has spent decades trying to train us to loathe them – we still favor way more than disfavor. Like Trump, Cuban is popular – for being him. An over-the-top success – who revels in his success in over-the-top fashion. And we like to watch it. We (thankfully still) find success to be – beautiful.
Well, Mark Cuban has a problem with patents. Specifically “dumbass,” “stupid” patents. He has said: “Dumbass patents are crushing small businesses. I have had multiple small companies I am an investor in have to fight or pay trolls for patents that were patently ridiculous.” He has co-endowed a Chair at the Electronic Freedom Foundation: “The Mark Cuban Chair to Eliminate Stupid Patents.”
On the idea of “dumbass,” “stupid” patents – we completely agree: “The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) is charged with approving patent applications. They are often…imprecise. And approve overly broad, abusable patents. Which are often sought by and granted to the aforementioned bad actors – who then use them to engage in all of the bad litigious practices we have discussed.”
But Cuban ignores the original sin and the sinner – the bad patents approved by government. And instead says he wants to “Blow up the patent system.” Which is woefully misdirected: “Rather than burn down the entire system – how about we instead address the root cause of all the ensuing nonsense? Tighten the USPTO approval process – and just about all of the resulting mayhem goes away.”
Cuban also ignores the fact that if we “blow up the patent system” in the fashion he wishes, he will no longer be able to protect his patents – by filing those allegedly pesky “patent troll” lawsuits he decries:
Earlier today, BuzzFeed News reported that Wal-Mart would start selling the wildly in-demand scooters called “hoverboards” online in time for the holiday season.
Now Mark Cuban, the billionaire entrepreneur who has signed a letter of agreement that would give him the exclusive license on the American patent for “a two-wheel, self-balancing personal vehicle,” says that the world’s biggest retailer has a rude surprise coming: “They are in for a nightmare,” Cuban wrote to BuzzFeed News after being informed of Wal-Mart’s plans.
As BuzzFeed News reported last week, Cuban reached an agreement last month to buy the patent license from Shane Chen, an Oregon inventor who has sued the best-known American importer of the Chinese-manufactured hoverboards, IO Hawk, for patent infringement.
Get that? Cuban the Patent System Loather is…suing to protect a patent. On a product he didn’t invent – in defense of a patent he only recently purchased. The allegedly nightmare patent system he denounces – he now will utilize to deliver Walmart a “nightmare.”
Is this the first time Cuban has bought a stake – and then sued to protect the acquired patents? Heavens no. Back in 2012:
Shark Tank investor and American business guru, Mark Cuban recently bought up big stock in Vringo, a company currently engaged in a sizable patent lawsuit with Google and several other tech firms. He owns about 7% of the company and has already seen the stock prices rise.
This past March Vringo merged with patent troll Innovate/protect who also owned a series of search patents from Lycos. Guess how they got those? Anyway, now Vringo plans on using these patents to file suits against Target, AOL, Google, and others.
The interesting part of the whole scenario is that Cuban hates patent trolls and the oppressive nature of big technology patent laws. He sees them as tools for hurting small business and competition rather than legitimate protection of intellectual property. So why is he investing in companies that make their living off exploiting technology patents?
A perfectly reasonable question – though these companies aren’t “exploiting” patents so much as defending them from thieves. (Google is particularly, notoriously pernicious.) Cuban attempted to answer thus:
Rather than originating in Congress, its going to take a consumer uprising to cause change. What better way to create a consumer uprising than to financially cripple and possibly put out of business the largest social network on the planet?
If Yahoo were to be awarded 50 Billion Dollars from Facebook, I think consumers may take notice. And don’t think that 50B should be an impossibility.
If Yahoo’s patents truly are valid and recognize that they got Google to pay money for their Pay Per Click patent (acquired from Overture), then there is absolutely no reason why the same Patent shouldnt be valid against Facebook. The company looking at an IPO with a 100Billion dollar market cap!
So in 2012, Cuban was painting himself the noble “patent troll.” Waging lawsuit war to revolutionize the system. But that does not explain why he is today more than happy to yet again use the exact same system. Rightly – as it was intended. To righteously defend his patent – from someone allegedly using it without permission or payment.
How very “troll”-like. Which is why when you hear “patent trolls” – think “people protecting their private property.” People like Mark Cuban.