The engineers at CarShield, a connected-car startup, were working on their trip-route optimization features when a patent troll interrupted their day. This troll didn’t bother sending a demand letter, it just filed a lawsuit. No prior notification. This was odd, as the plaintiff — 911 Notify, LLC — claimed to own a patent on notifications. The notification CarShield did eventually receive was an offer to settle the lawsuit for $250,000. They were shocked.
Startups in this situation are trapped between a rock and a hard-place. They can either pay off the troll (unsavory) or defend the lawsuit (expensive). Many startups decide to hold their nose and pay the trolls. Everyone would prefer to defend the lawsuit, but not everyone can afford the cost of defense. This is why we started using law school clinics to do free legal defense. It’s a win-win arrangement: students cut their teeth on real litigation, startups get free legal defense, and patent trolls get nothing.
Brooklyn Law School’s BLIP clinic tried it last semester, and was fairly successful in getting a patent troll lawsuit dismissed. I’ll tell you a little about the clinic, the case, and how other law schools can do similar work.