Recently the co-founder of Unified Patents, Shawn Ambwani, has gone to LinkedIn to complain about something said in an article here on IPWatchdog.com. The article was about whether John Thorne is a patent troll. Thorne, who recently wrote an op-ed in The Hill critical of patent owners, was senior vice president and deputy general counsel of Verizon when that company sued Cablevision asserting several patents, including patents Verizon had acquired (i.e., did not innovate) and were not practicing (i.e., making them a non-practicing entity). The article pointed out that the patent community has been told by many critics, including Unified, that those who seek to enforce their patents are patent trolls and should be condemned.
Ambwani took issue with that characterization and said that Unified Patents had never said that patent owners who sought to enforce their patents were patent trolls. He demanded I provide proof. This article provides that proof and exposes the duplicitous nature of Unified Patents statements about patent owners.
The truth is that Ambwani and Unified Patents are the poster children for all that is wrong with the U.S. patent system. They peddle a false narrative to forward an anti-patent agenda of their clients. They are nothing more than hired mercenaries and profiteers who make a living off the destruction of the American patent system. They make outrageously false statements about patent owners and when called on those statements they whine, complain and protest that they never said what we all know that they have said. It’s as if they don’t realize there is such a thing as the Way Back Machine that archives websites, or that they’ve been sending e-mails full of patent owner hate for years.
Why Ambwani would challenge me to prove what can so easily be proven, and why Unified Patents finds this kind of spotlight useful, is beyond me. But today we demonstrate the truth that Ambwani has complete and total disdain for patent owners, as well as a very strange and strained relationship with the truth.
The industry has been told by the likes of Unified Patents that non-practicing entities are synonymous with patent trolls — they do it all the time. Over and over and over again Unified Patents uses the term non-practicing entity, or NPE, as being interchangeable or equivalent with the term patent troll, going back and forth between the two as if they mean the same thing.
Take for example the text of a fairly standard press release issued by Unified Patents on September 17, 2013. As is common with press releases there will be text written by some anonymous individual and then quotes sprinkled in between from founders and/or officers. The press release reads in one part: “The IPR proceeding is a new PTO alternative to high cost of patent litigation that is being utilized to break the business model of patent trolls.” And then later, the press release reads as follows, this time quoting unified co-founder Kevin Jakel: “We are using all of the tools at our disposal to protect strategic technologies from NPEs. Inter-partes review… is just one of those tools.”
This is just one example of Unified using patent troll as a synonym for non-practicing entity. Finding other examples is hardly difficult. And even if you cannot find such examples on their rather streamlined new website, it is easy enough to find them using the Way Back Machine.
Another example, even more direct because of its direct connection to Ambwani, comes from a reader of IPWatchdog.com who observed Ambwani’s aformentioned complaints on LinkedIn. He sent me this screenshot of the August 2016 Unified e-mail newsletter. You can see Ambwani’s picture in the upper left corner signifying connection to the e-mail address sending the newsletter. The graphic at the top of the newsletter reads: “The Anti-Troll fights 2016’s most notorious NPEs”. Again, further proof that to Unified Patents and Ambwani non-practicing entities and patent trolls are one in the same.
Yet another, even more direct and disturbing example comes from how Unified long defined the term non-practicing entity or NPE on versions of its website published for years. The webpage reads: “Over the last ten years, the NPE (Non-Practicing Entity) problem, sometimes referred to as the patent troll problem, has grown dramatically… An NPE is often defined as a company or individual that owns patents but does not use those patents to produce goods or services. Rather, the NPE business model uses their patents to assert or litigate against operating companies for a financial gain.” Clearly, Unified Patents is using the term NPE or non-practicing entity interchangeably with the term patent troll. But wait, there is more. The webpage goes on to say: “NPEs make a profit by extracting licensing fees and settlement payments…” (emphasis added).
Based on this Unified Patents definition of an NPE, any patent owner that seeks to enforce a patent, whether through licensing or litigation, is a patent troll. Therefore, according to Unified Patents and Shawn Ambwani, any patent owner that seeks a licensing fee, seeks to resolve ongoing infringement, or resorts to the judicial process to seek redress for those who are violating rights granted by the federal government are patent trolls. In other words, all patent owners are patent trolls in the view of Unified Patents and Shawn Ambwani. Only those patent owners that go through the extraordinary time and expense of inventing and obtaining a patent and then do absolutely nothing are legitimate patent owners — everyone else is a patent troll. Talk about completely and utterly asinine! But I suppose that is how they come up with the ridiculous and obviously phony “statistics” about 94% of patent infringement cases being filed by patent trolls.
What’s shocking is that with this definition of patent troll 100% of patent infringement cases weren’t filed by patent trolls. I suppose that would have looked too suspicious for even the media, but seriously, exactly who in the patent owning community files a patent infringement lawsuit and isn’t trying to extract a licensing fee or settlement payment?
Obviously, Ambwani doesn’t like the fact that previous statements from Unified Patents exist to be found. Obviously, Ambwani is trying to use a belligerent tone and bully tactics in a pathetic attempt to convince the industry that Unified Patents hasn’t said what they clearly have said. It is understandable, I suppose, that Ambwani would want to change the narrative of Unified Patents as he sees greater and greater criticism heaped onto the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB). Everyone in the industry knows that at some point, likely soon, the PTAB will be substantially revised and that is if it survives at all. Ambwani will need to position himself and his company as champions of patent owners as the pendulum swings back, which will be difficult, if not impossible to do. Still, I suppose I can’t blame him for trying, but pretending Unified hasn’t treated all patent owners as patent trolls doesn’t seem like a winning strategy to me.
Of course, the original question remains from the article that so upset Ambwani in the first place: Does Unified Patents consider Verizon and John Thorne a patent troll? One would have to assume if Unified Patents is being logically consistent they would have extraordinary problems with Verizon’s activities where the patents used to sue Cablevision were acquired and not the subject of in-house innovation (a telltale patent troll characteristic), and they were not being used by Verizon, thereby meaning Verizon was not practicing the innovation for which they were seeking to exclude Cablevision (i.e., they were a non-practicing entity and therefore a patent troll in the view of Unified Patents).
If Ambwani is at all honest and logically consistent — a big if I know — it is clear that based on everything Unified Patents has said over the years Verizon and John Thorne would both be considered patent trolls. Unified Patents would also consider all independent inventors to be patent trolls, because independent inventors either seek to sell their patents or license their rights. All universities, federal laboratories and Research & Development companies would also be patent trolls, since all of them also seek to license their patent rights as well. So too would Apple, Microsoft, IBM, General Electric, Qualcomm, Samsung, Texas Instruments, Sony, and virtually every technology company in the world — they are all patent trolls according to the Unified Patents definition because they seek licensing fees and/or to enforce patents through litigation. Unified Patents would have considered Thomas Edison and the Wright Brothers to be patent trolls also, which really should put things into perspective.
Unified Patents has made a business out of grossly over defining what constitutes a patent troll. It would be one thing for them to say such ridiculously false things, but it is quite another for them to be said and then for Ambwani to whine and complain when those statements are noticed. Talk about revisionist history!