East Texas in general and the town of Marshall in particular were immortalized last month on the weekly public radio show This American Life. Unfortunately, it was not fame that was bestowed on us, but infamy.
This particular episode was devoted to patent trolls, which the show's host, Ira Glass, defined as "companies that make no products, but go around suing other companies that do make products, over supposed patent infringement."
According to Glass, "Patent lawsuits are so common now that it's hard to find even one
semi-successful startup in Silicon Valley that has not been hit with a suit, which slows
innovation, makes it harder for companies to prosper, hurts our global competitiveness [and] costs us all more money when we buy the stuff these companies sell."
The trail of one such troll led the show's reporters to 104 E. Houston St. in Marshall -- the Baxter Building, "a nondescript two-story building on the town's main square, two doors down from the federal courthouse."
A company called Oasis Research is allegedly headquartered there, in Suite 190. Only there were no lights on in their place of business, in the middle of a work day, and no one responded to the reporters' knock. Phone calls defaulted to an answer machine and were not returned.
Other, similar companies apparently make their homes in the Baxter Building.
"All the other doors looked exactly the same: locked, nameplates over the door, no light coming out. It was a corridor of silent, empty offices," the report said.
"It turns out, a lot of those companies in that corridor -- maybe every single one of them -- are doing exactly what Oasis Research is doing. They appear to have no employees. They are not making new inventions here. They're filing lawsuits for patent infringement," the report said.
This is not news to us, of course, but now, to our shame, radio listeners know that East Texas has become a mecca for patent trolls. Legislative action needs to be considered to curtail such practices that stifle business creativity and kill job growth.