Steve Wozniak: On Second Thought, Paul Allen’s Patent Trolling Is Kinda Bad

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Credit: Getty Images / Alberto E. Rodriguez

The patent lawsuit that Paul Allen filed against several of the biggest internet companies took the tech world by surprise; and many folks were even more surprised when Steve Wozniak, the legendary inventor who created the *Apple* I and *Apple* II, seemed to actually praise Paul Allen and defend patent trolling. But in a talk yesterday in Silicon Valley, “The Woz” made it clear that his views on Allen’s lawsuit have changed–big time.

When first interviewed on Bloomberg TV, Wozniak said this about Paul Allen’s lawsuit:

I think this lawsuit represents the idea that hey, patents, individual inventors, they don’t have the funds to go up against big companies. So he’s sorta representing some original investors. And I’m not at all against the idea of patent trolls.

But last night, speaking to a Silicon Valley audience, Wozniak said he actually skipped out on a Paul Allen event recently because he objected to the lawsuit, which seeks royalty payments on basic internet technologies like “related links.” The British tech publication The Register reported:

From Wozniak’s point of view, Allen’s lawsuit will not help anyone except Allen and his lawyers. “Well heck,” he said, “Paul Allen should be out there investing in companies that are doing something, making products, actually making a new future for the world, and not ‘I’m … going to sue people, and get in bed with the lawyers to make my money.’ That’s not the right way.”

For many in the tech community, Woz’s denunciation of patent trolling will truly be a return to the natural order of things.

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One thing I find interesting in a recent FTC report is the FTC’s distinction between “good” NPEs and patent trolls (which it refers to as “PAEs”). Many have long noted that there is a need to differentiate between NPEs such as universities and those other entities who abuse the system through arguably-excessive patent litigation. Distinguishing between those bad actors and other NPEs may be helpful in narrowing the focus and the terms of the debate over patent trolls.

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