'Troll Tracker' Tracked to Cisco IP Team
The mystery blogger who took IP holding companies to task is forced to unveil himself as a top IP attorney for tech giant Cisco
February 26, 2008
Patent attorneys who followed a controversial patent blog to keep up with IP issues may lose the resource now that the anonymous blogger unmasked himself this weekend [ http://trolltracker.blogspot.com/2008/02/blogger-revealed.html ].
Facing an e-mailed threat of being named, Richard Frenkel, a director in Cisco Systems' intellectual property group, identified himself on Saturday as the author of Patent Troll Tracker, a blog that reports on companies that critics, including Frenkel, argue hold patents solely to sue for infringement.
The blog has become required reading for many patent attorneys, some of whom have found the posts not only insightful, but helpful to their practice.
"I have a case in Texas where one of my co-counsel sent me a long excerpt from the Troll Tracker blog because he had learned something about the plaintiff that he hadn't known," said David Bloch, a partner and intellectual property litigator in Winston & Strawn's San Francisco office. The information wasn't case-changing, Bloch said, but it was certainly useful.
"Most IP litigators keep an eye on Troll Tracker," said Edward Reines, a partner and patent litigator in Weil, Gotshal & Manges' Silicon Valley office.
Those litigators will be out of luck, at least in the short term -- Frenkel ended Saturday's revelatory post by writing that he would be take a few weeks to decide whether he wants to continue blogging. Frenkel was unavailable for comment on Monday, said Cisco representative John Noh.
TRACKING THE TRACKER
It's not known who drove Frenkel to expose himself. His identity was the subject of a bounty, first reported by Recorder affiliate IP Law & Business [ http://www.law.com/jsp/article.jsp?id=1196762670106 ]. The bounty, initially set at $5,000 but eventually raised to $15,000, was offered by Chicago lawyer Raymond Niro Sr., of Niro, Scavone, Haller & Niro.Niro said Monday that the reward hasn't been claimed. "Whoever did it did it not for the purposes of making money but rather for the purposes of exposing him," he said.
Niro had a contentious relationship with the anonymous Frenkel since a Troll Tracker post criticized Niro last summer.
After Niro filed a patent suit for a client against Google, Frenkel was among the first to report that Scott Harris, a Fish & Richardson partner in the firm's San Diego office, was listed as the inventor on the patent while his firm was also representing Google. Harris resigned shortly after.
In a Jan. 18 e-mail to the then-anonymous Frenkel, Niro offered to give Frenkel the reward provided most of it goes to a charity and to debate Frenkel publicly.
Frenkel wrote back: "[Y]our offer intrigues me. Let me think about it."
Niro said Frenkel had not yet communicated any decision on the challenge.
In his Saturday post, Frenkel wrote that he began working in intellectual property 10 years ago as a law clerk at Lyon & Lyon in Los Angeles. He became a patent litigator for Irell & Manella and then moved in-house with Cisco.
He also wrote that the only superior at Cisco who knew of the blog was his direct manager, identified by Noh as Mallun Yen, vice president of the company's intellectual property group. Noh said that Cisco had no involvement in the blog and employees are allowed to maintain personal blogs provided they don't violate the company's code of business conduct.
Niro and some commenters on the blog argue that Patent Troll Tracker's credibility is brought into question by Frenkel's position at Cisco.
"He's an employee of a major company that has gone on the record as saying we oppose these guys," Niro said, referring to so-called trolls.
Cisco holds 5,000 patents worldwide and has 7,000 more in applications, Noh said. Members of the intellectual property group oversee those filings and also work on litigation. The company is also a member of the Coalition for Patent Fairness, a lobbying group whose members include dozens of the nation's largest technology companies. The group paid law firm Patton Boggs $500,000 in 2007 to lobby for patent reform, the Associated Press reported Monday.
However, patent attorneys who regularly read the blog say Frenkel's credibility is unaffected by his job."I don't think there was any doubt which side he was on anyway," Bloch said.
Reines agrees: "It provides very reliable and prompt information about what's going on in patent litigation."