Troll tracker case settles, but it should never have got to this 23 Sep 09
The Prior Art blog reports that the defamation action against Cisco Systems and Rick Frenkel, author of the Patent Troll Tracker blog, has been settled just prior to a jury in the Eastern District of Texas was due to retire to consider a verdict. The case was brought by lawyer Eric Albritton, who has represented a number of NPEs/trolls in the Eastern District. He claimed that Frenkel had libelled him in pieces posted on the Troll Tracker blog. At the time Frenkel was employed by Cisco Systems.
Instinctively, I believe that there has to be a very good reason indeed to over-rule someone's right to freedom of speech. What complicates things, though, in this case is the Cisco factor. Freedom of speech is important, but so is disclosure. Readers of the Troll Tracker blog should have been told that Frenkel was a Cisco employee, especially as others at the company knew what he was doing and Cisco itself has a very strong anti-troll agenda. There is no reason to believe that Frenkel did anythng other than act on his own initiative, and you can see why he would have wanted to remain anonymous; but I can also see why someone who had been frequently criticised on the blog with, as he felt, no right of reply, would see red once the truth emerged.
Despite that, it does seem extraordinary to me that the case ever got to court. What it demonstrates, I suppose, is just how heated the whole issue of NPEs and trolls can get and, therefore, just how careful you have to be when you are reporting on it - even in the US, where, as I understand it, libel and defamation laws are far less restrictive than they are in the UK.
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