Law students chase patent troll away from connected car start-up

Patent troll stories don’t usually have a happy ending but this might count: a troll tried to shake down a start-up for $250,000 but had to skulk away empty-handed thanks to the hard work of a group of students at Brooklyn Law School.

As patent lawyer Eric Adler explains, California-based CarShield sought the students’ help after its connected-car business was targeted by a troll who goes by the name 911 Notify.

The troll, which is nothing but a shell company, put CarShield in the same terrible dilemma that confronts every other target of patent trolls: it could either spend hundreds of thousands on lawyers to fight the troll, or simply pay the troll to go away.

The law students, however, changed the financial calculation by lending their time to help CarShield challenge the troll in court. Their case was aided by a recent Supreme Court case that curtailed computer patents, and another that made it easier to collect legal fees from trolls.

Long story short, the troll decided to flee rather than fight and dropped the case.

Unfortunately, the troll will live another day — a quick search of federal court records revealed that it is using the same half-baked patent to harass dozens of other companies. And thanks to the failure of Senate Democrats to pass a patent reform bill, there is little to stop it from conducting these shakedowns.

But the episode does raise the intriguing possibility of other student legal clinics joining the fight against patent trolls. As Adler, who helped advise the students points out: “Running a patent litigation defense clinic is not easy, but its possible, and it’s a worthwhile project. Patent trolls hurt innovation, and law students can help stop them.”