As pointed out by my wife, there was a good article by Matthew Ingram in the Globe and Mail recently on Patent Trolls.
Discussing what sorts of activities might fall within the “patent troll” definition, Mr. Ingram notes that in 1895, a U.S. lawyer named George Selden filed a patent for a “road engine” and then managed to get virtually every automobile maker to pay him a fee — all except for Henry Ford, who fought the claim and won.
Other examples of trolling, as noted in the article, include Research In Motion Ltd. being sued by U.S.-based NTP Inc., and RIM settling by agreeing to pay $450-million (see my earlier post on the Blackberry case).
Still mostly a U.S. phenomenon, but I’m sure we’ll see our very own examples here in Canada in the not too distant future.
Update: Mike Brown, of Brown & Michaels, PC, provided some interesting history on the George Sheldon patent in his comment to this posting. Check out their great webpage on the Selden patent. Thank you Mike Brown.
Update No. 2: Bob Shaver, of Dykas, Shaver & Nipper, LLP provided further information on the Seldon infringement case in his comment. Also be sure to check out his Patent Pending Blog which has some fantastic information on historical inventions.