This 21-minute radio story is perhaps the best general-public news piece I've seen on the patent-trolling strategy, though it relies on innuendo for why Marshall, Texas, is the home of the patent-troll litigation, when it would have been easy enough to get quotes from people explaining the phenomenon. The conclusion is devastating:
In early July, the bankrupt tech company Nortel put its 6,000 patents up for auction as part of a liquidation. A bidding war broke out among Silicon Valley powerhouses. Google said it wanted the patents purely to defend against lawsuits and it was willing to spend over $3 billion to get them. That wasn't enough, though.
The portfolio eventually sold to Apple and a consortium of other tech companies including Microsoft and Ericsson. The price tag: $4.5 billion dollars. Five times the opening bid. More than double what most people involved were expecting. The largest patent auction in history.
That's $4.5 billion on patents that these companies almost certainly don't want for their technical secrets. That $4.5 billion won't build anything new, won't bring new products to the shelves, won't open up new factories that can hire people who need jobs. That's $4.5 billion dollars that adds to the price of every product these companies sell you. That's $4.5 billion dollars buying arms for an ongoing patent war.
The big companies -- Google, Apple, Microsoft -- will probably survive. The likely casualties are the companies out there now that no one's ever heard of that could one day take their place.