Patent Trolls in the 19th Century?

Sharks in Iowa?

As strange as it sounds, “patent trolls” are not just a 21st century problem. It turns out this type of predator was also present in the late 1800s. Back then the trolls were called “patent sharks” and they were just as crafty as present day patent trolls.

Circa 1860 the US Patent Office made a decision to loosen up patent standards for designs of farm implements: plows, grain cradles, pitchforks, etc. This policy decision was met with a flurry of inferior and non-specific patents which then opened the door for the patent sharks.

The patent sharks would travel to isolated farm communities and threaten the farmers who were using the farm tools with the oblique patents. A quick cash settlement would normally avoid court. Sound familiar? The farmers protested to the Feds but little happened for about a decade. Later the US Patent Office returned to the higher patent standards that existed prior to the Civil War.

Lessons for the 21st Century? A good patent is a specific patent.  The Federal Government ain’t so smart. The small business man (the farmer of today) is the best prey for the troll. Bad guys follow the money.

Want to learn more about how to protect your small business or start up from the Patent Trolls? Come join CSUF Entrepreneurship at our seminar called:

Patent Trolls and Other IP-Related Threats:
How to Protect Your Business from a New Kind of Predator

Presented by: The CSUF Center for Entrepreneurship and CSUF Center for Family Business

Date: Wed., January, 22, 2014
Time: 6:00 p.m. (reception begins at 5:30 p.m.)
Location: Mihaylo College of Business and Economics
The O’Brien Center, Third Floor
800 N. State College Blvd., Fullerton

John Bradley Jackson
Director, Center for Entrepreneurship
jjackson@fullerton.edu

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