Or should that be "weasel"? Anyway, John Bringardner has a fascinating piece up this week on law.com on Ray Niro. If that name is at all familiar to you it may be because the term "patent troll" was initially coined to describe the activities of Niro and his firm. So where is our hero today? Bringardner uses the polite phrase "controversial situations" - I call it a soap opera.
In episode 1, Niro won a big judgement for Philip Jackson against Glenayre Electronics Inc. on a patent infringement case. However, the judgement was reduced by more than 75% on appeal, leading Jackson to sue Niro for malpractice.
In episode 2, Niro counter-sued Jackson, in part on the grounds that the patent, which he had successfully enforced, was invalid. The two parties settled.
In episode 3, a blogger calling himself "Troll Tracker" started publicly and repeatedly using the word 'troll' to refer to Niro, who didn't much like it. In response, Niro threatened the blogger with a charge of violating a patent, number 5,253,341.
The 341 patent has a long and bloody history. Niro tried to use this patent once before to, as Bringardner puts it, "silence a vocal critic." Niro's lawsuit led to the patent being re-examined and most of its claims invalidated. But there is still one surviving claim, though it's not clear to me how that claim (about image compression) relates to public criticism of this particular patent troll.
In this week's episode, Niro is offering USD 5000 to anyone who can lead him to the identity of the so-far-anonymous "Troll Tracker" blogger.
Finally, Bringardner notes that Troll Tracker has been remarkably effective at publicizing some of the inner machinations of Niro's patent suits, particularly his relationship with one Scott Harris, a now-former partner at the law firm of Fish & Richardson. He's "former partner" in part because Troll Tracker revealed that he was behind a Niro lawsuit against Google, which happens to be an F&R client.