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America's Biggest Patent Troll Finally Speaks Out, Claims to Have Invented Shipping Notifications

8843722_20161101_52130211.jpgIn the world of patent lawsuits, Shipping and Transit LLC isn't a new name. In fact, it's one of the most common names seen within that field recently.

According to The Wall Street Journal, Shipping and Transit is one of America's most notorious patent trolls, and they've sued more than 100 small companies in 2016 alone on the grounds of patent infringement for shipping notifications, which the business now claims to have invented. Because of course they did.

Patent trolls are companies who file for extremely vague patents that could cover any number of technologies or services, and then use those patents as a weapon against smaller companies, often threatening litigation if an infringement claim isn't settled upon.

From 1998 to 2010, the number of patent applications increased to about 520,000, making it easy for patent trolls to buy up patents from failing companies.

Some companies, like Shipping and Transit, are notorious for this practice. Many of them even go after bigger targets like Google and Apple, claiming that they've infringed upon a patent.

However, Shipping and Transit typically goes after smaller companies. According to legal analytics firm Lex Machina, it's the single largest filer of patent lawsuits in the United States for 2016.

The number of companies sued by Shipping and Transit doesn't even include those who paid quickly to avoid an all-out legal battle.

The company most commonly claims patents for "providing status messages for cargo, shipments and people."

Recent changes to the U.S. patent system have made it easier for bigger and wealthier companies to combat claims like these, but small businesses have almost no chance when it comes to fighting the troll.

Shipping and Transit usually demands fees ranging from $25,000 to $45,000 from the companies it sues. For some, it's an amount just small enough to not warrant hiring a patent attorney, but for others it's a painful sentence.

"I am literally losing sleep over this," said Pat Nastri, chief operating officer of CD Universe, an online seller of music, movies, and games. He said the $25,000 sought by Shipping and Transit amounts to one of his employee's salaries.

Martin Kelley Jones, a co-owner of Shipping and Transit, said that the idea of tracking e-commerce packages stems from another idea he had in the late 1980's to notify families of arriving school buses. Because of course it did.

Jones recently stated that the company only goes after smaller companies because every larger company is a "licensee" of his patent.

In a text message to one of the small businesses that Shipping and Transit has hired patent lawyers to sue, Jones said, "We are people with families and kids, businessmen - we never seek personal attacks or personal discomfort toward anyone!"

Anthony Lo Cicero, the intellectual property lawyer who has represented big retailers sued by the company, said that most companies settle because those fees are far less than the cost of fighting back.

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