So-called patent trolls have a bad reputation.
Alleged trolls, more politely called non-practicing entities (NPEs), make most of their money from licensing patents or suing companies or both.
NPEs might also invest in research and development but rarely make anything.
But alleged patent trolls say they actually encourage innovation, either by helping smaller companies make money from their patents or by developing new technologies themselves.
"Until we came along, most small entities were really frozen out of the market," Ryan told BI. "As more manufacturing gets outsourced, the real value in products is the technology."
Other alleged trolls develop their own technology while making money from patents.
"Patents are an important part of any society where a future is going to rely on innovation," InterDigital CEO William Merritt told BI. "We license the technologies to people who are much more equipped at putting it inside a box and getting it on the shelf at Best Buy."
Like most accused patent trolls, Notthaft wrote, the nation's most important inventors like Thomas Edison licensed most of their technology instead of commercializing it themselves.
"Was Thomas Edison a patent troll?" Notthaft asked.
SEE ALSO: Tech's 8 Most Fearsome 'Patent Trolls' >
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