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You may hear often about patent trolls in the media. Patent trolls (also referred to more formally as “Non-Practicing Entities” because of their tendency to not practice the invention that they own rights to) are persons or entities that acquire and enforce patent rights against accused infringers in an attempt to collect licensing fees. A patent troll is not interested in manufacturing a product or engaging in a process under the patent that they have acquired. Rather, their sole interest is to engage in a kind of economic rent-seeking, searching out collecting fees from entities that are practicing the patented invention. For this reason, patent trolls are often charged with the claim that they are impeding innovation and harm the ability of companies to deliver products that consumers demand at the lowest price.

A glaring problem that many trademark owners face, but which does not appear to have garnered the same degree of attention in the media, are trademark trolls. Trademark trolls are individuals or entities that seek out the names or symbols belonging to well-known third parties with the sole intention of deriving value from the trademarks through licensing back to the true owner or selling the trademarks and other related properties (including domain names) to the trademark owner. There are some fundamental differences between patents and trademarks that make it slightly more difficult for trademark trolls to accomplish their goals effectively. In the trademark troll world there are three types of bloke :

  1. The bloke that registers the trademark, knowing that the trademark is owned by a third-party, with the main purpose of using those trademarks against the true owner of the marks.
  2. The bloke that trades in trademarks like another might trade in fine Persian rugs: registering catchy or even relatively common words (but not generic or descriptive, mind you) with the hope that such words will someday be the subject of a valuable trademark.
  3. The bloke that registers a trademark with a plan to use it legitimately, but who then tries to broadly enforce the mark against a bevy of diverse actors, parties who may not even compete with the registrant.