Confessions of a Patent Troll

By Robyn Hagan Cain on March 14, 2013 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Patent trolls have a bad reputation. Run a search for the term, and you'll find headlines about misconduct and the death of innovation.

But is there another side to trolling?

Recently, I was surprised to hear an established intellectual property litigator describe herself as a patent troll, and curious about her side of the debate. She graciously agreed to answer a few questions. To protect her identity -- hey, even trolls need job security -- we'll refer to this attorney by her super-secret pseudonym, Sharon Underbridge.

Confession 1: Most trolls who file patents are not regarded as trolls.

Ironically, Sharon says most "patent trolls" are generally touted as "prolific inventors" or "research and development" companies.

Confession 2: "Trolling" starts with due diligence.

Sharon's role in the patent process starts with reviewing patent portfolios and making recommendations on whether investors should acquire them. Those recs are based on how much life is left on the patent, how well the patents read on to the potentially-infringing products and services, what sources of proof are publicly available to demonstrate infringement, and whether there are any potential validity issues or narrowing disclosures within intrinsic evidence which might make an otherwise-valuable patent less attractive.

She also assists in the jurisdiction selection process based on where her clients can get personal jurisdiction over the infringers and where the judges are pro-patent.

Confession 3: Most of a troll's job is pretty standard.

Everything after the due diligence stage is similar to any other patent case: retaining experts, propounding discovery, preparing contentions, participating in meditations, preparing for Markman hearings, handling dispositive motions, etc.

Confession 4: Patent troll work is probably the purest form of patent litigation.

Because the typical fee structure is contingency based, there is no pressure to bill or not bill time. Sharon doesn't base decisions on what the client will or won't pay for each month, but on her judgment as to what is the best tactic to advance the case.

Confession 5: Most patent trolls have BigLaw pedigrees.

Sharon's background is in patent litigation defense work for large international law firms. She claims that almost all of the other "patent trolls" she meets have the same pedigree. "Honestly, firm experience is invaluable. It is the best way to build your skill set and develop the thick skin you need to survive this line of work," Sharon explained.

Want more inside dish from a "patent troll"? Check back tomorrow for more confessions of a patent troll.

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