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Fighting a Patent Troll and living to tell about it

How often can you sit down and have a rational discussion with an extortionist and persuade them to change their evil ways?

Ah, but hope springs eternal. And it’s human nature for most of us to believe the best in our fellow man and that reasonable people can reason together to resolve issues and disputes.

So, when software maker Pegasystems got hit with a dubious patent infringement lawsuit by patent troll Vincent Cyr of YYZ patents, Joe Mullin of ARS Technica reports that company founder Alan Trefler’s initial response was, “Why don’t we talk to the guy and explain to him that we don’t infringe?”

In a face-to-face meeting, “cooler heads would prevail,” right?

So, Trefler and his licensing chief, Ayaz Hameed, met with Cyr and his lawyer in two-hour meeting at Pegasystems’ headquarters in an effort to explain “how the concepts in the patent were far outdated by the time it was filed in 2000.”

When Trefler asked the Cyr what he meant by “message broker,” the essence of the suit, the troll’s lawyer reportedly responded, Humpty-Dumpty-style, “We’ll make it mean whatever it needs to mean for us to win this case.”

So much for reasonable people reasoning together and cooler heads prevailing.

“The conversation kept coming back to ‘if you pay us this much, we’ll go away,” Trefler told Mullin. “I concluded that was two hours of my life I’m not going to get back.”

Finally convinced that he couldn’t reason with the extortionist, Tefler didn’t take the comparatively safe and easy route of paying the ransom. Instead, reports Mullin, he “became more energized to win a complete victory over the YYZ patents — even though millions in potential damages were at stake.”

And last month Pegasystems “won a total victory.”

“In a 22-page opinion,” Mullin writes, “US District Judge Sue Robinson found that YYZ’s patents were abstract and unable to pass the first test of patentability.”

The legal costs for defending itself against the lawsuit will probably cost Pegasystems more than it would have cost to simply pay the extortion demand. But Trefler has no regrets.

“Nothing can be worse than encouraging these sorts of suits,” he said. “As someone who’s always prided himself as being an engineer and an inventor, I think it is disrespectful to both of those professions to engage in or support frivolous patents. It’s disheartening to see the moral decay of the patent system.”

Which is why Congress should immediately act on stalled patent reforms that will end such abusive shake-down lawsuits. So let it be written; so let it be done.