The duplicitous nature of Unified Patents statements about patent owners

By Gene Quinn
August 27, 2017

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!

The Author

Gene Quinn

Gene Quinn is a Patent Attorney and Editor and founder of IPWatchdog.com. Gene is also a principal lecturer in the PLI Patent Bar Review Course and an attorney with Widerman Malek. Gene’s specialty is in the area of strategic patent consulting, patent application drafting and patent prosecution. He consults with attorneys facing peculiar procedural issues at the Patent Office, advises investors and executives on patent law changes and pending litigation matters, and works with start-up businesses throughout the United States and around the world, primarily dealing with software and computer related innovations. is admitted to practice law in New Hampshire, is a Registered Patent Attorney and is also admitted to practice before the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. CLICK HERE to send Gene a message.

Warning & Disclaimer: The pages, articles and comments on IPWatchdog.com do not constitute legal advice, nor do they create any attorney-client relationship. The articles published express the personal opinion and views of the author and should not be attributed to the author’s employer, clients or the sponsors of IPWatchdog.com. Read more.

Discuss this

There are currently 9 Comments comments. Join the discussion.

  1. Bemused August 27, 2017 3:12 pm

    “Listen buddy, there’s a lot of bad guys out there who don’t like your business and want to rip you off. Pay us a fee and we’ll provide protection against these low-life ripoff artists.”

    What’s the difference between a wiseguy shaking down a legitimate shop owner for bogus “protection” money making that statement and the content of Unified Patents marketing materials to current and prospective members? None that I can see.

    I read the following advice on a blog that I follow and it perfectly exemplifies the Unified Patents business model:

    Most businesses fail because they aren’t a real business in the first place. Pick the right business and your work as an entrepreneur will get a whole lot easier.

    If your business doesn’t really help people, doesn’t provide a real solution, or doesn’t give people something they really need then your business is sh*t and it will fail.

  2. JS in DFW August 27, 2017 6:19 pm

    Unified is worse than the worst patent troll. At least a patent owner/troll owns something.

    One thing you did not mention in your article is how childish Ambwami is in his posts, particularly on LinkedIn. Does he care/know that his writing style is completely unprofessional? I guess when a person is so focused on calling everyone names, the writing style of a childish condensending jerk works.

    Also, Unified claims to challenge “bad patents,’ but the statistics show its success rate is way below average. Thus, they are not challenging “bad patents.” I think that is the most hypocritical BS they peddle with thier PR.

  3. Anon August 27, 2017 6:38 pm

    Honestly, I care little, if at all, what Mr. Ambwani has to say.

    I do care that there exists (still) a concerted effort to disparage patents and patent holders (from both the Left and the Right).

    The battle continues, even as the foot soldier of Mr. Ambwani has run out of ammunition.

  4. Tesia Thomas August 27, 2017 8:27 pm

    I first heard of the guy on comments on this blog. Her was going back and forth with Gene about whether InterDigital was NPE based on R&D.

    I’m all about people having the right to have their own opinion even if it doesn’t agree with mine. That’s why I love this blog. Gene doesn’t censor. Gene wouldn’t censor Google I’m sure.

    But then and now I see that he’s duplicitous and I think people like that should be ejected from earth.
    Say what you mean and mean what you say. If you misspeak or make some other mistake then own it. No one’s perfect.
    But this guy just wants two different truths which is just not reality.

    I think it’s sad how this is all unravelling. We’re figuring out who Google paid off. USPTO is talking too much so we’re finding out its evils. And the people like Ambwani are ‘eating their words.’

    Yet…what recourse for patent owners? Where are the trust busters?
    There’s no punishment.

    I think if Oil States is decided in pro independent patent owner favor that inventors should file a lawsuit against Google and try to get punitive damages. Otherwise…our government has shown time and again that it doesn’t work for the people. It works for the people with money.

  5. JPM August 28, 2017 8:50 am

    Unified Patents are a bunch of racketeers shaking patent owners down for free licenses.

    Any inventor or patent owner who crosses paths with Unified Patents learns quickly what their model is. They basically tell you, “give us a free license to cover our clients or we are filing an IPR” the free license if you grant it is then used to cover their clients in “zones” that are relevant to your patent (ie networking, search, IoT etc)

    They leverage the crooked IPR system with its ridiculous reputation of killing patents 80%+ of the time to extort free licenses from inventors and other patent owners who enforce their patents against their clients.

  6. dh August 28, 2017 2:03 pm

    Such hucksters as Unified Patents are clearly encouraged (if not enabled) to create political buzz with the patently rhetorical “patent troll” meme, with its dishonest representations, for obvious political reasons; namely, to undermine the individual rights and liberties that are provided by a working patent law system.

  7. Eric Berend August 28, 2017 7:21 pm

    There is little to add. Any entity that supports such a stalking horse – and Unified Patents is a true ‘stalking horse’, if ever anyone has seen one – is without question, deliberately abusing the patent system overall.

    Therefore, any and ALL of Unified Patent’s clients are, without question, deliberately practicing extortion against patent owners: is this the correct, conventional and ethical remedy, for the bad actors of ANY domain?

    In U.S. criminal law, do we empower vigilante organizations to carry out so-called “justice”, directly sponsored by those who stand to benefit from the illicit “enforcement”? Is this the actual basis of enforcement of U.S. jurisprudence? Obviously not.

    However, for today’s ‘snowflake’ darlings, steeped in Stalinist psychology, there is little chance there will EVER be even a modicum of respect.

    “You didn’t invent that – the COMMUNITY did”.

    Breyer (paraphrased from memory; various remarks ar oral argument; citations omitted) “…inventors will invent for food (e.g., ‘…a pizza’)…in a couple weekends at a Starbucks…”

  8. Robert August 28, 2017 7:28 pm

    Patent trolls defend the rights of small inventors against multi-nationals. Without patent trolls, there’d be no check against the theft of private property by the multi-nationals. Long live patent trolls!

  9. Anon August 29, 2017 4:35 pm

    Robert,

    You have alighted upon one of the unsung virtues of a natural retaliatory mechanism to the Big Corp “Armageddon” tactics.

    Only when this mechanism gained enough power did Big Corp manufacture and spread the propaganda of the scary “Tr011.”

    As in most such instances, one just needs to follow the actual money to see who most benefits from the “Tr011” story telling.

    Hint: that would be Big Corp.

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