Is Paul Allen’s goal patent reform?

We are all aware of Paul Allen’s recent moves to sue leading Internet companies over a number of patents held by Interval Research.

Larry Downes, author of The Laws of Disruption, has come up with a novel explanation for Allen’s sudden move into litigation – his ultimate aim is patent reform!

From Paul Allen: When a Patent Troll is an Enigma :

Something tells me there’s something else going on. Patent litigation is an elaborate chess game, and it feels like this is a move deep inside a very long-running game. There’s a great deal that’s broken about the patent system. I’m just not sure yet whether this lawsuit is Exhibit A.

What other answer is possible? Here’s at least one crazy possibility (there are crazier ones, but this one at least is plausible). Maybe Allen is not the world’s most famous patent troll. Maybe he’s out to become the world’s most famous patent reformer. Maybe he doesn’t want so much to win as to publicize how dangerous his patents are.

Perhaps in asserting these patents, with their potential to unsettle so much of what is taken as settled business practices in the digital economy, he hopes to force leading tech companies and Congress to acknowledge that the system is broken and fix it. If he wins, or even if he just wears down the other side, perhaps he’ll demand not financial tribute but actual reform of a system that gives patent holders like him the power to disrupt digital life.

If so, it’s a dangerous gambit. On the other hand, it’s hard to see how the patent system could get much worse than it already is.