Berkeley-Columbia Student Drew Curtis, founder of, Speaks at TED Conference founder and editor-in-chief Drew Curtis, BCEMBA 13, spoke at a TED (Technology, Entertainment, and Design) conference in Long Beach last month on "How I Beat a Patent Troll."

Curtis founded Fark, a news aggregator and edited social networking news site, in 1999. In his six-minute TED talk, Curtis spoke on how Fark─along with Yahoo!, MSN, AOL, TechCrunch, and others─was sued by a company called Gooseberry Natural Resources in January 2011. Gooseberry, Curtis explained, had a patent "for the creation and distribution of news releases via email," a broad description that itself drew some chuckles from the audience.

"The patent system is dysfunctional, and as a result most of these lawsuits end in settlements," Curtis said. "Because the settlements are under a non-disclosure agreement, no one knows what the terms are."

Curtis pointed out that the average patent troll defense costs $2 million and takes 18 months when the defendant wins. "One of the major problems of patent law is that when you are sued by a patent troll, the burden of proof … is actually on the defendant," he said.

Curtis had hoped to team up with the other larger defendants to fight the suit, but they settled one by one, even though they didn't infringe on the patent. The reason, said Curtis: "It's cheaper to settle than fight the lawsuit."

To find out what happened to Fark and what Curtis learned, watch the TED video.