Imagine this: a limited liability company (LLC) is formed, for the sole purpose of acquiring patents, including what are likely to be low-quality patents of suspect validity. Patents in hand, the LLC starts approaching high-tech companies and demanding licensing fees. If they don’t get paid, the company will use contingency-fee lawyers and a litigation finance firm to make sure the licensing campaign doesn’t have much in the way of up-front costs. This helps give them leverage to extract settlements from companies that don’t want to pay to defend the matter in court, even if a court might ultimately invalidate the patent if it reached the issue.
That sounds an awful lot like a patent troll. That’s the kind of entity that EFF criticizes because they use flimsy patents to squeeze money from operating companies, rather than making their own products. Unfortunately, this description also applies to a company that has just been formed by a consortium of 15 large research universities.
This patent commercialization company has been secretly under discussion since 2018 . In September 2020, it quietly went public, when the University of California Regents authorized making UC Berkeley and UCLA two of its founding members. In January, the DOJ said it wouldn’t challenge the program on antitrust grounds.