Extortionist Demand Letters are Wrecking Public Confidence in the U.S. Patent System

By Scott Burt
October 26, 2014

Nero and the burning of Rome by M. de Lipman, circa 1897.

Adam Carolla, one of the most popular podcasters in the U.S., is sued by a patent troll. The story goes viral. Across the country, state Attorneys General are using consumer protection laws to guard their small businesses from the predacious patent trolls. And here’s something previously unthinkable: the President of the United States, in the 2014 State of the Union address (“It’s the country’s most valuable political real estate,” noted one D.C. veteran), urged Congress to “pass a patent reform bill that allows our businesses to stay focused on innovation, not costly and needless litigation.”

The greatest long-term threat to the U.S. patent system does not come from its professional opponents – those large businesses and their political allies who stand to profit from enfeebled patent rights. A deeper harm is caused by unscrupulous patent trolls who use extortionist “demand letters” to victimize small businesses. This practice, we believe, is wrecking public confidence in the U.S. patent system – and by extension, profoundly weakening the heretofore bedrock belief in the great economic benefits conferred by patent-protected inventions.

Yet even as damage caused by demand letters spreads, most legitimate patent licensors whose businesses depend upon continued legislative and public trust stand idly by, doing little or nothing to address it. Well-insulated within the patent industry’s cozy professional bubble, we are, in effect, fiddling like a modern-day Nero while innovation’s Rome burns.

 

FAR-REACHING IMPACT

Why the disconnect? Most people in the patent licensing industry understand that patent troll demand letters are a significant economic problem for the U.S. small business community, annually costing millions of dollars in settlement fees and legal bills. What’s not grasped is that phony demand letters are an even greater political problem for our industry and for the patent system as a whole. Let’s quickly review the problem.

Patent trolls, typically operating through shell companies, send form letters to dozens, hundreds, or even thousands of apparently random small businesses at a time, claiming with little or no evidence that they are “infringing” the troll’s patents. The senders demand so-called “licensing fees” ranging from $1,000 to $50,000 or more (depending on the size of the business) to avoid a patent infringement lawsuit that could cost these businesses far more to defend against in court – even if the business owner is innocent of any infringement.

It’s true that comprehensive, nationwide data on the extent of the demand letter problem and its economic impact is hard to come by or doesn’t exist. But there is mounting anecdotal evidence that the deluge of demand letters is at the very least harming one of the nation’s most critical job creation sectors, small businesses and startup companies. The reported impact usually takes the form of hiring delays, reduced R&D spending, or a negative change in product or business strategy. One study reported that 70 percent of 200 venture capitalists surveyed had invested in startup companies that later received extortionist demand letters.

Simply looking at the aggregate economic impact of patent troll demand letters, however, or advocating for more study of the issue before acting, misses their fundamental emotional impact – the intense popular rage that they generate. To understand that, you’ve got to put yourself in the shoes of a small business owner who is victimized by a patent troll.

[Varsity-4]

 

DEMAND LETTERS – SETTLING IS CHEAPER THAN FIGHTING, UNFORTUNAELY

Imagine that one day, out of the blue, you get a certified letter from some shell company or law office you’ve never heard of before, claiming that the $39 Wi-Fi router you bought at Office Depot a few months back to communicate with your customers and suppliers is somehow infringing one of the troll’s patents. No actual evidence of infringement is provided. No patent claims are cited. Nevertheless, the sender threatens to sue you in United States federal court for patent infringement unless you pay a $5,000 “license fee.”

You have no way of knowing if the letter is legitimate, if its claim that you are infringing a patent is true, or even if the patent itself is actually valid or not. Your regular business lawyer has no clue, either, because the only people sufficiently skilled in reading the specialized legal language of patent claims are patent attorneys. Assuming you find a patent attorney who has time to meet with you, that attorney’s rates likely start at around $500 per hour.

But okay, you figure that spending $500 or $1,000 on a patent attorney is better than forking over $5,000 or more to some thieving patent troll. So you meet with the patent attorney. To your shock, however, he or she quickly reviews the demand letter and advises you that the economically rational decision is to pay the toll from the troll. Yes, you can ignore the letter or outright refuse to pay, but you then risk a ruinous patent infringement lawsuit that could easily cost you at least hundreds of thousands of dollars to defend! You read about heroic business owners who’ve fought trolls, and won, because it was the “right thing to do” – but it cost them $100,000 or more to do so. You don’t have that kind of coin.

Oh, and forget about trying to negotiate with the patent troll. Their demand letters often don’t include a phone number, just a P.O. Box to which you are told to send a check. Even if they include a phone number, they won’t return your calls.

Bitterly, you bite the bullet and write a check for $5,000 — money earmarked for growing your business — plus hundreds more for the patent attorney, who advised you to fold your hand.

Inside, you seethe with anger. Anger at the sheer injustice of it all. And quite often, anger at a patent system that apparently allows such outright extortion to be perpetrated.

Only if you can picture yourself being victimized by such a demand letter can you truly grasp why they — and the abusive practices of patent trolls in general — have sparked such a wave of protest from the business community, the public, and elected officials.

 

POLITICIANS ARE LISTENING – AND ACTING

The National Federation of Independent Businesses (NFIB) and many other retail business groups and trade associations have demanded that the government act. Washington is listening. Only several years ago, very few members of Congress ever gave any thought at all to patent issues. Today, anti-patent sentiment is rampant and Congress seems determined to enact some sort of anti-troll legislation, having been besieged over the last couple of years by thousands of very angry Main Street constituents to do something.

In December 2013, the House of Representatives easily passed the Innovation Act. This act targeted the use of shell companies, required more detail about infringement allegations, and included a “loser pays” provision. However, the Senate’s companion bill, the Patent Transparency and Improvements Act, stalled repeatedly and was ultimately withdrawn by Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont) owing to justifiable concerns that it would have severe unintended consequences on legitimate patent holders.

The enthusiasm for new laws curbing patent trolls hasn’t waned. In June 2014, only two weeks after Senator Leahy withdrew his bill, the House of Representatives launched another attempt. Representative Lee Terry (R-Nebraska) unveiled a draft demand letter bill that would clarify the power of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and state Attorneys General to regulate patent demand letters sent in bad faith.

At the state level, meanwhile, a dozen states have already enacted laws to curb abusive patent demand letters, and 14 other states are actively considering legislation to do the same. In addition, the Attorneys General of several states have brought suit against trolls who send these letters by using existing consumer protection laws against making false claims to extort money.

One of the most successful suits took place in New York, where in January 2014 state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman forced MPHJ Technologies, LLC to sign a consent decree requiring it to repay all the money it received from businesses in the state. MPHJ, using various shell companies, had falsely claimed in demand letters it sent to businesses that it had analyzed each target company’s scanning systems and determined these to be in violation of its patents. In fact, MPHJ had merely sent form letters to hundreds of companies of a certain size and industry classification without investigating or uncovering any evidence whatsoever of infringement.

What is this if not outright extortion? This is why so many ordinary citizens and small business owners are so furious – and with good reason.

If they know U.S. history, they will be wondering, “Where is the patent system of Thomas Edison? What happened to a patent system that helped transform a largely agrarian United States in the 19th century into the global leader of the Industrial Revolution, and in the 20th and 21st centuries, into the world’s most prosperous and economically powerful nation?”

Have patent trolls now turned the patent system into little more than a protection racket and a tax on small businesses?

As an industry and as professionals, we should forthrightly condemn the practices of bad actors that are victimizing the innocent– just as responsible members of other industries condemn the predatory practices of bad actors in their fields. Then we must do our part to root them out. Only by doing so can we revitalize and reaffirm the demonstrable truth that the American patent system plays a vitally important role in the innovative process and the economic strength we all enjoy.

But instead, many in our industry sit silently on their hands, fearful of getting embroiled in controversy or of giving opponents of the patent system more ammunition with which to criticize and attack it. At the 2014 Global IPBC industry conference in Amsterdam, many speakers condemned patent trolls, yet no action plans were proposed. Some licensors even continue to write publicly about “the so-called” patent troll problem, as if thousands of small business victims were somehow merely imagining it all. Denial should not be tolerated in our industry.

 

STAND UP TO THE DEMAND

At Conversant, we believe it’s time to step up and help deal with the scourge of patent troll demand letters. So we’ve launched a “Stand Up to the Demand” campaign designed to help small businesses identify and respond to extortionist patent demand letters. We’re not doing this for practical business gain, because small businesses are not our partners or licensees. Rather, we have launched this campaign because it’s the right thing to do, and we hope it will help restore public trust in our industry and in our patent system as a national engine of economic progress and competitiveness.

The first phase of our campaign features a web site with a video and an infographic quiz that helps business owners distinguish a bad demand letter from a legitimate notice letter. Visitors can view sample demand and notice letters, and we’re inviting the public to share their stories of how they are dealing with patent trolls. We have also linked to other resources, including a U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) website that offers advice to small businesses that believe they have been the victims of abusive demand letters. And there’s a link to a free web-based tool launched by RPX, a provider of patent risk management solutions, that helps small business owners research the background and litigation history of the senders of demand letters, to the extent these are known.

Former USPTO director David Kappos once described the U.S. patent system as “our country’s investment plan – a giant 401k through which we pay a little extra now form more great innovations in the future.” As a vital guarantor of our nation’s future, the patent system certainly warrants that description. Let’s not forfeit our future by allowing patent trolls to corrupt it today.

The Author

Scott Burt

Scott Burt  
Scott Burt leads Conversant’s legal professionals, including the corporate counsel and secretary functions, ligation, and patent prosecution. He also heads the Company’s public policy initiatives, and in 2013 spearheaded the development of its Patent Licensing Principles document. He actively participates in patent licensing negotiations and patent acquisitions. Scott joined Conversant in 2012 and was named to his current role in 2014.

Scott is a 21-year veteran of Jones Day, one of the top IP firms in the United States and globally. At Jones Day, he led a diverse IP and technology practice focused on complex litigation, IP counselling, and IP transactions. In the patent enforcement and litigation area, Scott’s practice emphasized patent analysis, global litigation and dispute resolution for clients in electronics, software, communications and other industries.

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 28 Comments comments.

  1. DU October 27, 2014 9:22 am

    Other than the writers of phony demand letters, I’d venture to say that none of us support illegitimate demand letters – meaning those that are not supported by evidence of infringement (e.g., claim charts), complete contact information, “pay or else” demands, etc. So why has the response by our government been to erode patent rights (or cause such confusion in the USPTO as elucidated in a recent article on this site by Robert Plotkin, which has the same effect) rather than to directly address the problem at hand? Why not simply require that all patent demand letters include claim charts, copies of the patents being asserted, etc?

    To continue to use the word “troll” without defining it (and we all know how broadly it’s interpreted) seems irresponsible. If I recall, the original use of the word was a legitimate infringement lawsuit against Intel. If the issue at hand comes down to “phony demand letters” then let’s make this the topic of conversation and regulation. As an inventor with patents licensed to several Fortune 1000 companies, I’d welcome this, rather than some complex shifting of rules and USPTO procedures that doesn’t seem to benefit anyone other than Google, and stands to have unintended negative consequences for innovation in the United States for many years to come.

  2. Benny October 27, 2014 9:32 am

    DU,
    you ask, ” So why has the response by our government been to erode patent rights (or cause such confusion in the USPTO ?”
    One possible answer is that having barricaded the IP world behind a wall of legalese and obtuse patent attorneys (Anon, this means you – half the time I can’t comprehend your comments), it isn’t surprising that everyone else becomes confused and panicky, a direct result of not being able to fully understand the issue.

  3. Anon October 27, 2014 9:49 am

    Benny,

    Admitting that you do not know the terrain of the discussions here is not a compelling point to make.

  4. Benny October 27, 2014 10:14 am

    Anon,
    My point is that those who make decisions, fuel the debate and communicate with the decision makers and the public also do not know the terrain of the discussion – which is why you are unhappy with the outcome.

  5. Anon October 27, 2014 11:02 am

    Benny,

    You do not make that point. That may be your intent, but you definitely don’t get there.

  6. patent leather October 27, 2014 11:43 am

    “Oh, and forget about trying to negotiate with the patent troll. Their demand letters often don’t include a phone number, just a P.O. Box to which you are told to send a check. Even if they include a phone number, they won’t return your calls.”

    I got to this point and stopped reading. Please kindly post a link to such a demand letter that does not provide a point of contact. I’ve dealt with many “trolls” (however that is defined) in my career but never once saw such a letter.

  7. Benny October 27, 2014 11:54 am

    patent leather –
    Here is a link you asked for. I didn’t check to see if they return calls.

    https://trollingeffects.org/letters

  8. Ironic October 27, 2014 11:58 am

    Does the sending of demand letters wreck the confidence in the U.S. Patent System more than the USPTO issuing invalid patents many of which are at the root of these demand letters?

  9. Curious October 27, 2014 12:43 pm

    Does the sending of demand letters wreck the confidence in the U.S. Patent System more than the USPTO issuing invalid patents many of which are at the root of these demand letters?
    You’ve been reading too much Slashdot and Ars Technica.

    The US public, as a whole, doesn’t have a problem with the USPTO. The validity of the patents issued by the USPTO probably ranks somewhere between 400th-500th in the list of importance to most people. As far as the Slashdot/Ars Technica crowd, there isn’t a software-related patent out there that they don’t think is obvious or was done back in the 70s by somebody. Unfortunately, I haven’t read one article posted there that evidences any sophistication regarding construing the language of the claims (i.e., understanding what the invention is really about). Instead, most don’t get beyond looking at the title of the invention. As such, the vast majority of them fail to recognize that what is being claimed is far more narrow than what they think.

  10. patent leather October 27, 2014 1:31 pm

    Benny, all of the letters I read on your link (I don’t have time to go through all of them) are either from real law firms or companies that provide their direct contact info and invite a dialogue. I did not see one that merely provided a P.O. Box to send a check for a stated amount to with no other contact info.

    I’d like to see proof of this article’s claim that “Their [trolls] demand letters OFTEN don’t include a phone number, just a P.O. Box to which you are told to send a check”

  11. Ron Hilton October 27, 2014 1:58 pm

    It’s too late to remove “patent troll” from the popular lexicon, but a PR campaign to narrow the definition to “patent extortionist” is a great idea. On a related note, I have longed believe that there needs to be greater parity between patent law and antitrust law. It’s too way easy to bring an infringement suit, and way too hard to bring an antitrust suit. Some reasonable middle ground needs to be found for both of these vital, complementary areas of the law. And kudos to the state AGs for taking action by educating victims and prosecuting the extortionists.

  12. Ron Hilton October 27, 2014 2:04 pm

    Here’s another idea. Patent professionals should immediately refer victims who come to them for help to the state AG’s office without charge. Billing them just to tell them to capitulate to the extortionist (adding insult to injury) borders on malpractice in my opinion. If that’s what’s happening, then the patent bar almost deserves the public backlash it’s getting, except that inventors and the patent system are the ones getting caught in the cross fire.

  13. Fish Sticks October 27, 2014 2:19 pm

    DU #1, I agree.

  14. Simon Elliott October 27, 2014 4:28 pm

    You correctly point out that a big problem is that alternative to paying to toll is a very expensive and protracted litigation. This problem is not unique to IP. Perhaps we need to consider some cheaper way to address weaker law suits without creating stare decisis.

  15. Anon2 October 27, 2014 5:03 pm

    I’d also like to see the evidence re. Mr. Burt’s claims for “Their demand letters OFTEN don’t include a phone number, just a P.O. Box to which you are told to send a check”

  16. Anon2 October 27, 2014 5:05 pm

    Also, doesn’t the purported “Troll” want a licensing agreement in place, a “check” seems rather short-sighted?

    I’d like to see ONE example where there is just a PO box where you are told to send the check.

  17. patent leather October 27, 2014 9:39 pm

    OK, I originally missed the point of this article (since I didn’t read it all the way through as per my original post). I originally thought the article was anti-patent (hence my hostility above). I wouldn’t think Gene would typically allow an anti-patent article on his site, but I suppose in the interest of telling both sides it would be reasonable (just like Lemley was a guest here last month although some of us view him as enemy #1).

    So now I get it (I think). The author’s organization licenses hi-tech patent portfolios and is not anti-patent but feels that patent trolls are giving all licensing entities a bad name. So they want to single out the very bad actors to show that the legitimate licensing outfits are doing their part and are legitimate.

    If I am correct as to their position and interests, while perhaps well-intentioned, I think this strategy will backfire. Any mention of the “patent troll” problem serves to increase anti-patent sentiment. It is this anti-patent sentiment that caused a petition to be circulated on We the People to Obama to abolish software patents (and apparently he is up to the task). I personally think the “patent troll problem” is overstated. A better strategy I think would be a publicity campaign at how bad patents can easily be knocked out in reexamination (or other means) and how the problem is overstated. Many think the solution to the “patent troll problem” is to abolish software patents altogether. This is the mentality that needs to be changed.

  18. Benny October 28, 2014 1:39 am

    Patent leather,
    quote, “. A better strategy I think would be a publicity campaign at how bad patents can easily be knocked out in reexamination “.
    Except that they can’t, unless you have deep pockets. A better strategy, I think, would be to enact a method of knocking out bad patents in re-examination without incurring crippling expense.

  19. Curious October 28, 2014 10:39 am

    A better strategy, I think, would be to enact a method of knocking out bad patents in re-examination without incurring crippling expense.
    Huh? If you have good art, it shouldn’t be hard to find an attorney to do an ex parte reexam for under $20K. That is hardly crippling expense. If you are a small businessman, odds are you are in a member of several organizations related to your business and you can find other business similarly situated. If so, that $20K can be spread out over multiple businesses.

    The problem I have with extremely low-cost reexamination is that it will not be used just to knock out bad patents. Instead, it will be used as a tool, by infringers, to harass patent owners. It is hard enough as it is for a small player to attempt to enforce their patents. Defending against multiple reexams is very costly.

  20. Benny October 28, 2014 10:51 am

    Curious,
    It is apparent from your previous comments that you have experience working with large companies. With smaller companies, 20K is a noticeable bite of he R&D budget, and frustrating for managers who understand that if the USPTO had invested a couple more hours in the examination process it would not be necessary.
    I don’t see why an EPR should harass an inventor any more than a third party submission. If exact prior art can be found, you are not deserving of protection. If not, you have little to worry about.
    If you are in a small business odds are your competitors wouldn’t give you the time of day, let alone co-operate in sharing legal expenses (ask me how I know).

  21. Curious October 28, 2014 12:27 pm

    With smaller companies, 20K is a noticeable bite of he R&D budget.
    I already provided the solution — odds are the small company is not alone and they can pool their resources.

    frustrating for managers who understand that if the USPTO had invested a couple more hours in the examination process it would not be necessary
    It is wishful thinking to believe that most “bad” patents would have been knocked out if the USPTO just had another couple of hours to examine them. The only thing the couple of extra hours would have provided is more search time, and if you understand patent searching, it follows the law of diminishing returns. Those couple of hours aren’t going to add much.

    If you are in a small business odds are your competitors wouldn’t give you the time of day, let alone co-operate in sharing legal expenses (ask me how I know).
    I’ve had a different experience. Also, business colleagues are not necessarily competitors. Even if they sell the same products and/or services, they could be geographically separated (so no real competition) but belong to the same trade organization.

    If exact prior art can be found, you are not deserving of protection. If not, you have little to worry about.
    You don’t need exact prior art to reject a patent. Moreover, it isn’t hard to couple together a multitude of different combinations of references to make obviousness rejections. Regardless, defending an ex parte reexam is much more expensive than initiating one. Once instituted, the USPTO does all the work for the person asking for the reexam.

  22. Ironic October 28, 2014 1:44 pm

    “The US public, as a whole, doesn’t have a problem with the USPTO. The validity of the patents issued by the USPTO probably ranks somewhere between 400th-500th in the list of importance to most people.”

    Curious – are you trying to say that the US public cares more about demand letters (good or bad) more than the perception (your right fueled by the anti-patent folks) that many issued patents are invalid . . . the whole reexamination/IPR system just feeds the perception because the average person or even sophisticated business clients do not understand why a duly issued patent would need to be examined more than once or why private citizens have to pay for government/patent office mistakes in issuing claims . . . even if you think $20,000 is cheap . . . you don’t think clients find it ironic that the government asks them to pay to knock out claims that should not have been issued in the first place? And this system of reexamination/IPR does not erode the users/clients confidence in the system more than demand letters?

  23. Curious October 28, 2014 4:09 pm

    Curious – are you trying to say that the US public cares more about demand letters (good or bad) more than the perception (your right fueled by the anti-patent folks) that many issued patents are invalid
    I’m saying that the US public, as a whole, cares little about what is going on. The issues are too esoteric and/or too removed from their daily lives for them to care. To be clear, I’m not saying that this isn’t important — these issues just don’t register in the conscious of the vast majority of people.

    you don’t think clients find it ironic that the government asks them to pay to knock out claims that should not have been issued in the first place
    No … you are asking the government to do something special for you. Usually, that costs money — most clients get that.

    Also, let us not forget that just because a “troll” asserts a patent it doesn’t mean that the patent is invalid.

    the perception because the average person or even sophisticated business clients do not understand why a duly issued patent would need to be examined more than once
    I think understanding why is pretty easy — new information has come to light which requires reevaluation of the claims. Drugs are approved by the FDA and then subsequently pulled off the market. An operator (of just about anything) gets a license from the government and then that license gets revoked. Why? Based upon new information. The analogies between reexamining a patent and other forms of the government changing their mind are easy to see. As such, I don’t agree that the average person or sophisticated business client doesn’t understand why a patent may be examined more than once.

  24. Benny October 29, 2014 4:26 am

    Curious,
    You say, ” you are asking the government to do something special for you. Usually, that costs money — most clients get that”.

    I am asking the government to get it right the first time, so I don’t have to ask them to do it again.

  25. Simon Elliott October 29, 2014 9:26 am

    Curious: you can file an ex parte reexam, but it can take many years before the PTO arrives at a decision. A company must deal with uncertainty for that time, knowing that the troll will demand more if the troll wins. You can see that a corporation might prefer to be done with it and pay the “licensing fee”

    This gets to my earlier comment about the high price of litigation. The PTO would do everyone a favor if they could speed up the pace of re-exams. After all, the public has just asserted that the USPTO made a mistake in issuing a patent: shouldn’t that be settled ASAP?.

  26. Curious October 29, 2014 3:45 pm

    I am asking the government to get it right the first time, so I don’t have to ask them to do it again.
    I see you overlooked my other points — involving new information coming to light. The USPTO cannot search every patent application perfectly. There is just too much prior art, spread out over too many systems, and we are working with an imperfect medium — the English language, whereby the same thing can be described using entirely different words.

    The USPTO is a first stage filter — it isn’t the last filter. If you want the USPTO to be as good as the last filter, then you’ll end up paying several hundred thousands of dollars just to get a single patent. The patent system is (too) expensive as it is (I call it the sport of kings), and what you are looking to do will take it out of the realm of 99+% of people. To promote progress, the patent system should to be accessible to the vast majority of people, which necessitates lower filing fees, which in turn, limits the out of searching that can be done.

    On its face, your suggestion seems reasonable. However, like many reasonable suggestions, they fail to recognize the second and third order consequences of their implementation.

  27. Curious October 29, 2014 3:53 pm

    A company must deal with uncertainty for that time.
    I’m not sure many inventors, who’ve frequently waited 3, 5, 10 years from filing to when they got their patent, will have that much sympathy.

    A company must deal with uncertainty for that time, knowing that the troll will demand more if the troll wins. You can see that a corporation might prefer to be done with it and pay the “licensing fee”
    Its a business decision. While it seems unfair that paying a licensing fee to a potentially invalid patent, the company may very well be getting a good deal on a valid patent. It would be nice to know who was right (and wrong) quicker, but that isn’t the way our legal system works.

    The PTO would do everyone a favor if they could speed up the pace of re-exams
    Too much volume, too little (qualified) people.

    the public has just asserted that the USPTO made a mistake in issuing a patent: shouldn’t that be settled ASAP
    Every defendant in a patent lawsuit says the USPTO made a mistake. It doesn’t help to give someone a #1 priority if everybody else also gets the #1 priority.

  28. Inside informant November 18, 2014 1:53 pm

    “Simply looking at the aggregate economic impact of patent troll demand letters, however, or advocating for more study of the issue before acting, misses their fundamental emotional impact – the intense popular rage that they generate. To understand that, you’ve got to put yourself in the shoes of a small business owner who is victimized by a patent troll.”

    That is correct.

    But what you suggest doing would require empathy. A ability sorely lacking in many in the field.