Except that when you work for a company, that company owns the result of your work and thus any patents that result from it. This is only right because they have paid you for the time you spend thinking about it, possibly prototyping it, etc. And what happens when multiple people are involved in the invention?
Robotics Developer: We actually had/have a system in which patents are reviewed by the patent office and awarded on merit, but it falls short of the need. With humans involved, there are always inconsistencies on was this really worthwhile? Was it truly unprecedented? Do the PTO really understand the gizmo in question? I don't really have an answer to that one. (Maybe we need an inventor!)
But all that is separate from the issue of trolls. How about this: patents can only belong to invidividuals. That way, they move with the person who can let an employer use it, or not. And companies that exist purely to trade in patents may not own them, so it eliminates the issue of companies formed to buy patents and litigate them.
If an individual troll decided it wanted to go after an individual, they would have to do it as another individual, which screws up that whole business process.
Would that be an improvement? I think, if nothing else, it would empower (and enrichen) those who came up with the concept.
I guess I must be one of the "Old Skool" engineers: I was taught that there is "No such thing as free lunch" and to document all my work related activities in an 'engineering notebook'. I have always fully practiced both lessons to the maximum extent possible; including those event that can be considered non-technical issues (e.g. work-related social interactions). These 2 simple tenets have saved and protected my bacon too many times to cite here.
Ethics should be an integral part of any profession and must be a life-long mandate. Yet, it was never a compulsory curriculum in college. Unfortunately, US (higher) education system does not put enough emphasis on ethics, values and morality but it should. There will always be the potential for moral dilemmas in any profession and EE life does not get immunity from such. Keeping things simple with the above 2 lessons have always allowed me to resolve such issues with the least amount of angst and repercussions.
I agree Tom: there would be no use in them shopping for an opinion unless they thought that would be enough to scare a company into paying, but I didn't get the impression that this company intended to use scare tactics. They were interested in targeting specific companies and specific products. Perhaps they were lookng for someone who both thought those products did infridge and could create some good arguements as to why they infringed. In this case I found lots of proir art that showed the patents to be easily invalidated. If I can do that in a couple of hours, the targeted companies would also have been able to do the same and quickly show that the suit had no merit.
It all depends on your "values". At the end of the spectrum, if you value money first and foremost, anything goes and ethics do not come into the picture. At the other end of the spectrum, if you value justice and piety, you probably would not deal with any aspect of modern life. Most of us are somewhere in between, thank Goodness :-)