Meet Erich Spangenberg. This Texan is the owner of TQP, a company that like any other patent troll has not produced anything worthwhile, but has a popular patent under its belt. The company has only two employees, Spangenberg himself, and Michael Jones who filed a patent back in 1989. This was a crucial patent for the web as its title reads,
Encrypted Data Transmission System Employing Means for Altering the Encryption Keys
Although the patent was filed back in 1989, TQP acquired the patent only in 2006 and has been sitting atop the patent ever since, suing most of the big brands from the IT and internet industry. The patent covers the use of SSL over the web.
TQP is a perfect example of a patent troll, but a lot has to be wrong with the current patent system as well. A network-related patent filed back in 1989 is being granted 17 years later. To put this into perspective, the World Wide Web was invented back in 1989, and so was the patent.
TQP has made a living out of suing companies from various verticals over the last five years. So far, it has sued 500 companies, including Google, Apple, HP, Intel, Amazon, Dell, Electronic Arts, Adobe, Wells Fargo, Bank of America, HSBC, Walt Disney, United Airlines and even Exxon Mobil. As we can see here, the patent is so broad that TQP can sue every other company out there that has a website and encrypts its pages. What does Spangenberg have to say about this?
When the government grants you the right to a patent, they grant you the right to exclude others from using it. I don’t understand why just because SSL is prevalent, it should be free.
Spangenberg has over 247 companies, that do nothing other than owning certain patents and filing lawsuits, but this SSL patent has to be the golden goose. The patent has already faced re-examination once but has not been revoked. What surprises me is that companies like Apple and Google that believe in the web are falling easy prey to this SSL patent troll! If anyone, these companies should have defended the right to use SSL.