Most startups fail to survive long term, and the reasons for those failures are as varied as the companies and their products, goals and mission statements. Typically it comes down to money, in the way everything is about money in some form: not having enough money, not being able to convince investors to give them more money, not having enough customers willing to part with their money for what the company is selling. It’s unfortunate, but it’s a hard reality that many of the startups you read about or see will at some point blink out of existence, left as little more than a memory to stumble upon later.
But what if a failed company lived or, or at least its intellectual property? That’s the question posed by a recent spate of lawsuits brought against Apple and Google by Jawbone Innovations LLC alleging patent infringement on the part of the tech giants. The patents themselves originated with Jawbone, the once-prominent manufacturer of wireless technology that started out selling Bluetooth headsets and wireless speakers before pivoting to wearable health monitors before eventually reaching the terminus of the venture altogether. As you might imagine, even a business that is ultimately unsuccessful still has intellectual property that has some value to someone, and it seems that Jawbone’s patents related to noise-isolation algorithms are valuable enough to try and take both Apple and Google to court over.
It doesn’t seem to be the case that Jawbone has lain dormant for close to four years waiting for the opportunity to launch a lawsuit against those companies. James Vincent of The Verge concisely notes that the reporting this far indicates Jawbone Innovations LLC has no apparent relation to the now-defunct business, but is instead an entity that holds at least some of the patents once held by Jawbone, and perhaps nothing else — the dreaded patent troll.
All the evidence compiled by Vincent makes a strong case to label the entity as a troll: the fact that the listed manager has priors in what would be considered patent trolling, the fact that the suit is filed in the Western District of Texas, long considered a favored venue for patent trolls, and the fact that the suit is aimed at both Apple and Google, because if you’re going to take a shot, it may as well be a big shot. Given all that, there’s a non-zero chance that Jawbone Innovations LLC is able to walk away with something from all this, which is the point of the entire exercise of patent trolling: playing the numbers that eventually you’ll hit a payday. Still, it’s a bit sad to think that the innovations of a once-promising company are now being used for something so base as a desperate grab for a quick and easy buck.