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?
He thinks exposure of how ridiculous these laws are is the key to reform. When Cuban looks at the latest lawsuit between Yahoo! and Facebook he sees potential for one of the biggest payouts in internet technology litigation ever! In his mind, this will draw everybody'e attention to the issue.
Take a look at Cuban's comments on the lawsuit on Blogmaverick.Com:
"Change is needed. However, its not going to come from our government. The lobbyists have taken over. One of the symptoms of the illness patents have caused the technology industry is the explosion of lobbyists pushing the agenda of big patent portfolio holders. They are not going to let our lawmakers give an inch."
"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 it's pretty clear that he sees these lawsuits as a means to an end that hopefully results in our country breaking away from the shackles the system has created. There's no doubt that these patent wars have gotten out of control and I see his point of view and actions as a valid course given what technology patents have done to creative freedom and innovation in this country and others. Inventors and businesses alike should be calling for reform, but they aren't.
More from Mark Cuban's blog post:
"I hope Yahoo is awarded 50Billion dollars. It is the only way that consumers will realize what is at stake with patent law as is."
"Then maybe we can get it right and further innovation and competition in this country."
I am inspired by what he says, and its good to see someone with some clout and financial backing take up the cause. Hopefully change to technology patent law will come sooner rather than later, it's clear that large corporations aren't interested in preserving fair competition.