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Published first at http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2017/01/original-patent-troll-law-firm-is-shutting-down/
The Chicago law firm that became synonymous with “patent troll”-type litigation is shutting down, following the death of founding partner Raymond Niro.
The remaining partners of the Niro Law Firm are shuttering the firm, according to a report in Crain’s Chicago Business. A core group, including Niro’s son Dean Niro, will launch a new firm called Vitale Vickrey Niro & Gasey.
Original “patent troll” may call it quits, says there’s no money in it
“We wanted a new start,” said Paul Vickrey, who became Niro Law’s managing partner after Ray Niro passed away in September of last year. “The Niro firm has been synonymous with patent litigation, and a group of us wanted a new firm with a broader focus.”
While the move is directly connected to Niro’s death, it’s also a sign of the times. There’s far less room in the new legal landscape for sharply crafted patent lawsuits against big companies, the kind of cases that could yield settlements or verdicts worth tens of millions of dollars.
Pioneer for Patent Plaintiffs
Raymond Niro made a name for himself in patent litigation back in the late 90s by representing a company called TechSearch that wanted to assert its patents in court. Intel, a defendant against TechSearch patents, came up with the term “patent troll” as a derogatory way to define the TechSearch’s business model, which involved buying up patents and focusing solely on licensing and litigation.
“Troll was a derivative of, er, me,” Niro told IP Law & Business in 2001. “I’m the first.”
He was also one of the most successful. In an era when many patent lawsuits were criticized as nuisance litigation, defendants may not have agreed with Niro’s views, but they knew he was willing and able to be a formidable force in front of a jury.
Niro always maintained that he was standing up for the small inventor. Born in Pittsburgh, he was the son of a bricklayer who was also an Italian immigrant. After getting his degree in chemical engineering, he went on to law school at George Washington University.
Many in the tech sector loathed Niro for lawsuits they deemed an abuse of the system. His more controversial actions included litigation campaigns like the one brought by Innovatio IP, which sent out more than 8,000 letters demanding license fees from small businesses like chain hotels and coffee shops.
Niro had a heart attack while vacationing in Italy in 2015. Crain’s reported that he won more than $1 billion in settlements and jury verdicts over the course of his two decades in the patent trenches. He was 73 years old.
By then, his firm was already shrinking, having gone from 30 lawyers to 14. After the Supreme Court’s Alice and Octane Fitness cases were decided in 2014, the kind of high-stakes patent litigation Niro was an expert at became riskier. In 2015, the Niro firm was ordered to pay more than $4 million in legal fees to HTC due to a court’s finding that Niro lawyers knew an inventor had made false statements to the US Patent and Trademark Office.
“The stand-alone patent case is dead on arrival, and I don’t think we’re unique,” Niro told Crain’s Chicago Business a few months before his death.
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The Next Big Thing Contest
NBC’s TODAY show is collaborating with QVC once again to find “TODAY’s Next Big Thing,” a country-wide search for the next greatest product to hit the market.
If you’re sitting on a creative invention, send us your idea here through Feb. 17. Finalists will be selected to come pitch their product live on TODAY during the week of April 17 to a panel of judges, then viewers will get to vote for their favorite. The three products with the highest votes in their categories will return to TODAY, where the panel of judges will select a winner. The winning inventor will get to sell his or her product on QVC’s show “Saturday Morning Q” on April 22.
Enter now — we can’t wait to see what great ideas you’re sitting on!
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Retailer welcomes inventors to pitch
Pets at Home has announced that it is to hold two ‘Innovation Speed Dating’ days in 2017.
The Speed Dating Day on Wednesday 1 March will focus on food and treat innovations and the second day, on Wednesday 15 March, will focus on non-food and accessory innovations.
The retailer is welcoming inventors, suppliers, entrepreneurs and pet owners to pitch pet-friendly product ideas to a panel of judges.
On previous Innovation days, Pets at Home has seen more than 150 inventors – from across the globe – pitch their product ideas to key decision makers in the business who are excitedly searching for new products and concepts to bring to the pet industry.
Claire Gavin, head of Private Brands and Innovation at Pets at Home, said: “The Innovation Days offer a rare and exciting opportunity for people to share great ideas and work with us to turn those ideas into real products.
“From aquatic accessories and fish food to rabbit runs and puppy pens, if you have an idea we want to hear from you!”
The Innovation Days are being held at the Pets at Home Support Office in Handforth, Manchester.
Claire continues: “We spend our time searching the four corners of the globe for fantastic product ideas and concepts. However, nothing comes close to those ideas born from necessity.
“By that I mean the passionate pet owners who have been unable to find solutions and then spend time, creative thought, tenacity and determination to create their very own answer to a problem – that’s innovation.”
To find out more information email email@example.com
Pets at Home will then contact anyone whose concept grabs their attention and give them the opportunity to deliver a 30 minute pitch to the panel of trading experts on Wednesday 1 March for food or Wednesday 15 March for accessories at the Pets at Home’s head office.
The deadline for responses is Sunday 19 February for food and Sunday 2 March for accessories.
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