When you start a new business it should be one of the most exciting times of your life, but something always goes wrong and it wipes the smile off your face. Some companies are unfortunate enough to run into a patent troll who will do their best to make their life hell. A patent troll believes they hold a patent for something and they will trawl through the internet looking for companies that look like they’re infringing on the patent. They will then start to hound them for money using fancy legal letters.
I’m sure you can agree it’s not something you want to deal with because you’re trying to grow your startup. You might not have money to give away in the first place, but even if you do you’ll not want to give it away to a troll. The first thing you need to do is stay calm because panicking won’t solve your problem. After you’ve calmed down we’re going to look at some of the other steps you can take to stop them from taking you to court.
Don’t say anything
First you just need to sit tight because in a lot of cases those patent trolls will go away. There are probably hundreds of companies going to receive the same letter over the next couple of months, so the patent trolls will be more likely to pick a fight with people who reply to them. This might not work if you know deep down you need a license from them, but if they’re just after money you should be okay.
Hire a good lawyer
You need to have someone on your team who can look after your back while you build the company. Be careful when you hire a lawyer because they must have experience in the space. An inexperienced lawyer might not advise you to ignore someone sending you legal letters. It’s probably better if you ask someone for a recommendation because they will be able to tell you if the lawyer has played this game before.
Learn about them
Try to learn everything you can about the patent trolls. This doesn’t mean you should concentrate on the patent they are claiming ownership of. You want to find out everything you can about the people behind the troll mask. There is a big chance they’ve tried to hurt companies in the past and it should be easy to find out if you put your detective hat on.
Team up with others
If there are other victims out there you should reach out to them because at the end of the day everyone will be able to work together for the greater good. Just be careful everyone in the group had the same goals because some people might want to start throwing money at the case. If you want it to go away you won’t be able to team up with the companies who have a more aggressive approach in mind.
Try to claim poverty
You can speak to the patent trolls who should be sleeping under the nearest bridge. Tell them you simply don’t have any money. If you believe they could win in court you might be able to pay them much less than they’re asking for. Patent trolls just want money and if they don’t believe they will get anything from you it means you’re not worth their time.
Just be careful
If everything should fail you might find yourself getting taken to court. A lot of patent trolls don’t stand a chance of winning because people know they are evil, so keep thinking positively until the last minute. I hope everything works out for you and in most cases it usually will.
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Today’s contributor, Andrew Harris, works as a product manager at Concept Plus.ca, leading suppliers of corporate promotional items in Canada. In his spare time, Andrew loves to play the guitar and is a massive Mackle Moore fan.