Perhaps one of the most infamous trademark trolls is Larry Stoller. As part of the new line of “intellectual property entrepreneurs”, Stoller’s entire business strategy was to amass a portfolio of ambiguous trademarks he would then use to pursue and threaten as many offenders as possible. Below is a sample of just some of the trademarks Stoller registered.
Stoller is most famously known for aggressively pursuing his trademark of the word “stealth”. In 2005 he entered a legal battle with Sony’s Columbia Pictures after their release of the summer movie Stealth. Stoller sent a cease and desist letter to Sony claiming to have registered and owned the rights to the movie title and insisted that the title of the movie be changed. While he wasn’t successful with this particular venture, other big companies such as Kmart, JVC, and Panasonic have chosen to remove the term stealth from certain portions of their websites and products rather than deal with Stoller at all. Regardless of whether or not these companies feel as though they have a legitimate case, it’s simply easier to settle as many issues as possible outside of course. As one Panasonic lawyer stated “if you can solve problems without going to court, you’re better off”. If even huge corporations aren’t always willing to fight for their actual right’s, how much more can we expect of the smaller companies and start ups who receive a threatening cease and desist order from people like Stoller. This is clearly not in the service of the consumer.
Once again we have another example of an area of IP law that is being abused by trolls for pure economic benefit. Trademark trolls, like patent trolls, are abusing a system meant to protect the consumer and stimulate innovation. While Stoller wasn’t very successful in his ventures (he was recently stripped of all his trademarks and banned from making any further claims) this is exactly the kind of practice that companies like Intellectual Ventures are turning into a viable industry. The end consumer needs to be put back at the forefront of lawmaking to ensure that practices such as these do not continue.