Ford fights back against patent trolls

Some people are just awful. Some organizations are just as awful. And when those people join those organizations, we get stories like this one, where Ford has spent the past several years combatting so-called patent trolls.

According to Automotive News, these malicious organizations have filed over a dozen lawsuits against the company since 2012. They work by purchasing patents, only to later accuse companies of misusing intellectual property, despite the fact that the so-called patent assertion companies never actually, you know, do anything with said intellectual property.

AN reports that both Hyundai and Toyota have been victimized by these companies, with the former forced to pay $11.5 million to a company called Clear With Computers. Toyota, meanwhile, settled with Paice LLC, over its hybrid tech. The world's largest automaker agreed to pay $5 million, on top of $98 for every hybrid it sold (if the terms of the deal included each of the roughly 1.5 million hybrids Toyota sold since 2000, the company would have owed $147 million).

Including the previous couple of examples, AN reports 107 suits were filed against automakers last year alone. But Ford is taking action to prevent further troubles... kind of.

The company has signed on with a firm called RPX, in what sounds strangely like a protection racket. Automakers like Ford pay RPX around $1.5 million each year for access to its catalog of patents, which it spent nearly $1 billion building.

"We take the protection and licensing of patented innovations very seriously," Ford told AN via email. "And as many smart businesses are doing, we are taking proactive steps to protect against those seeking patent infringement litigation."

What are your thoughts on this? Should this patent business be better managed? Is it reasonable that companies purchase patents only to file suit against the companies that build actual products? Have your say in Comments.

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