People are now beginning to use a legal tactic called “offensive blocking patents” in which businesses or individual entrepreneurs use patents not so much as tools to build new products, but as legal roadblocks or bargaining chips against competitors or corporate giants.

Some legal experts, including those representing big corporations, are skeptical of this approach, which they say is impractical because of the enormous costs associated with inventions and patents.

Still, the tactic underscores the growing importance of patents as a competitive weapon in the technology industry, as demonstrated by the recent $35 million judgment in favor of a Virginia inventor who sued EBay for alleged patent infringement. Inventor Tom Woolston accused the San Jose online auction operator of using programs he developed for processing certain sales.
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