Not many things gets emotional in Patent World it seems, except when it comes to NPEs, Patent Trolls and Those Who Oppose or Defend Them. When emotions run high and words come out fast, the pen can be much sharper than the tongue. That experienced Rick Frenkel, a lawyer and the (former?) director of IP litigation at Cisco who outed himself as the author of the widely-read Patent Troll Tracker blog. The blog follows companies said to holding patents solely to sue for infringement. (Now the blog can be read only by invited members). The case recently settled, according to The Prior Art blog. In the US bloggers have been sued for libel before. In China, it seems, this bad habit has followers as well (“Bloggers sued for libel on late film director”) .
Blogging is the art of expressing. Ranging from pointy and articulately worded blogs to the-cat-swallowed-the mouse-this morning-type of blogs. One thing they all have in common. All feel the need to express whatever the writer wants to express instantaneously, without restraints of looking for sources to support the views expressed, neatly arranged by adding footnotes and other supportive materials. Nothing of that kind and that is frankly what makes people blog and what they now like to Twitter about. Worthless nonsense or a rich source of information? It depends who you ask and it depends who’s telling. IPEG has been able since November 2005 when it started to gather a growing 24,000 unique visitors per month. So one would think there are people interested in hearing views on what’s happening in the patent field in Europe. Accessible views or ramblings? And really, does it matter? You click on when you don’t like what you read.
Is litigation against bloggers for libel sound policy? Definitively not. I like to quote from “A Blogger’s Manifesto” from Erik Ringmar:
“As the members of polite society explained, free and frank conversations have a number of beneficial consequences. Through conversations people become acquainted with unfamiliar views and experiences; they discover flaws in their own arguments and strengths in the arguments of others; they learn to take others into account, to moderate their views, and to become more realistic and practical about their application. The eventual conclusion of a public debate is always going to be far more intelligent than anything individuals can come up with on their own. Reason is a collective and not an individual achievement.”
In lawyer’s paradise you sue rather than take the pen, if one feels libeled. Or was it because accusations were made, however rude and unfounded, against Mr. Lawyer Esquire? If it comes to arguing he thought he could get his revenge in a venue he knows best: a Court. Sounds more like countries who dislike any form of criticism. China Requires Use of ‘Blue Dam’ Surveillance Software, Saudi Arabia Blocks Twitterers It Doesn’t Like.
Joff Wild in IAM blog reports on the Frenkel settlement arguing that one has to have a very good reason to overrule someone’s right to freedom of speech. Joff seems to have been the victim of one of those trigger happy people himself so he knows where he is talking about. We agree full hearty.
Bloggers should be given almost unlimited freedom of speech. Only in the rarest of circumstances would we agree to limitations (have problems finding an example).
 Dr Erik Ringmar is a Professor at the National Chiao Tung University, Hsinchu, Taiwan. He is the author of Interest, Identity & Action (CUP, 1996) and Surviving Capitalism: How We Learned to Live with the Market and Remained Almost Human (Anthem, 2005).