Legitimate business or patent trolls?

Burst.com is a California company co-founded 18 years ago by Richard Lang.

Exactly what is the core business of the company? It holds 10 U.S. patents and asks big companies to license its technology. If they don’t, Burst sues them.

In March 2005, the company won a $60 million settlement from Microsoft. Its current target is Apple. Lang claims that Apple is infringing on Burst’s patents related to superfast transmission of data.

Hi-tech companies often refer to companies like Burst as patent trolls. The companies hold patents and make money on them by suing corporations who make products and services. They claim that they are all but forced to make large settlements with the patent trolls, because the legal risk of not doing so is too high.

Lang counters that he patented a method for transmitting data which was years ahead of its time. He says that Microsoft played hardball, and Lang had to sue.

The whole story is found at BusinessWeek.

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