Patent Sheriff and Friend of the Infringed

Niche Player LogoOn the base of the Statute of Liberty, Emma Lazarus’s poem invites the world to send Lady Liberty “your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” And that’s fine for Lady Liberty. But for the huddled masses that own patents, if those patents have been infringed, send them to the Patent Sheriff!

It becomes very apparent very quickly that no one knows more about patent licensing and patent enforcement than General Patent Corporation’s founder and CEO Alex Poltorak. And no one is feared more by patent infringers! Dr. Poltorak founded the business that would eventually become General Patent Corporation back in 1987. General Patent has been in the patent licensing and enforcement business longer than any other organization, making Alex Poltorak the Thomas Edison of contingency patent enforcement and the man who turned the concept into a successful business model.

Alexander Poltorak is very much a rags-to-riches story. He grew up in the USSR where he earned a graduate degree in Theoretical Physics – the equivalent of a Ph.D. in the US – but in 1980 he was stripped of his degree for his anti-communist activities. During the Reagan Administration, some political and religious dissidents were permitted to leave the Soviet Union, so Alex Poltorak was able to immigrate to the US.

He did not waste too much time once he arrived in the land of free enterprise. In 1983 he founded Rapitech Systems, Inc., a computer technology company that he took public in 1986. Rapitech owned a series of patents for the “smart connectors” that become the popular PCMCIA cards used on laptop PCs in the 1980s and 1990s.

Fate, more than anything else, led Alexander Poltorak into the patent enforcement business. Rapitech’s patents were being infringed (used by other manufacturers without a license from the patent owner), so Alex Poltorak set out to secure justice and compensation. His efforts enforcing those “smart” connector patents led to the formation of Poltorak Associates, the company that would evolve into the General Patent Corporation of today. The Rapitech patents were transferred to a new entity, Acticon Technologies, and 26 lawsuits later, Alex Poltorak was able to secure over 150 – yes, over 150! – licensees for those patents. And thus the concept of contingency patent enforcement was born.

Along the way, Dr. Poltorak found time to co-author two books, Essentials of Intellectual Property and Essentials of Licensing Intellectual Property (the Patents for Dummies of its time), with Paul Lerner, General Patent’s Senior Vice President and General Counsel. Both books were published by John Wiley & Sons Inc. and are available at all major booksellers. He also found time to write dozens of articles, speak at a number of intellectual property seminars and conferences, and raise five children – with a great deal of help, we assume – from his wife, Leah.

When the Patent Reform Act of 2007 was introduced, Dr. Poltorak realized that this proposed legislation was not really patent reform at all, so he founded American Innovators for Patent Reform (AIPR), a trade association dedicated to promoting true patent reform – stronger patents and stronger patent protection for inventors, scientists and other innovators. The Patent Reform Act of 2007 never made it into law, but then the Patent Reform Act of 2009 was introduced, so the work of AIPR was not done, and the group continues to oppose this legislation which is just reform in name only. Alex Poltorak continues to serve as Chairman of American Innovators for Patent Reform and its guiding light.

Talk about justice. Across the top of the General Patent website appears a portion of Deuteronomy 16:20: “Justice, justice you shall pursue…”  Them’s fightin’ words.