From The IPKat:
So how did we get from the mythical troll to its current uses in IP discourse? First consider the “patent troll”. The account given by Roger Kay is that the term arose when a spokesperson for Intel described opposing counsel in a patent infringement case, the late Raymond Niro (see here for a Kat remembranceof Mr. Niro), as a “patent extortionist”. Mr. Niro, hardly a shrinking violet when litigation was involved, filed suit against Intel for defamation. In-house counsel for Intel scrambled to come up with a term that would avoid a claim of defamation. Peter Detkin (then) of Intel suggested “patent troll”. As reported by Roger Kay–
Detkin defined patent troll at the time as “somebody who tries to make a lot of money from a patent that they are not practicing, have no intention of practicing, and in most cases never practiced.” Despite the basic nastiness of the term, the mythical troll can be a cute little gnome, leaving just enough ambiguity while preserving an essential pointedness.
By using the term, Detkin sought to cast in a negative light an entity that merely seeks to enforce the legal rights in the patent for monetary gain, as opposed to the inventor, or patent owner, who has an interest in actually making something under the patent. No matter that legally enforcing a valid patent is not an illicit act. No matter that there is no consensus on the metes and bounds of what entities are included in the term (is a university or a research center in or out?). No matter that there are also exists the term “non-practicing entity”, which presumably embodies the same notion as a “patent troll”. Migrating from literature, music, and art, the troll had made a triumphant entry into the way that the IP profession have described some of its own members.
. . . .
From an historical perspective, the term [internet troll] seems to reach back to the early 1990’s, in the largely benign sense in connection with a user of that time who was thought to be raising or discussing an issue that veteran users believe had been adequately covered. (One wonders to what extent Detlin was familiar with these early uses of the term in connection with the internet.)
From those origins, the terms as widely used on the internet today have morphed (some might say grotesquely so) to include a multitude of less bad or more bad behavior on the internet. A small amount of “trolling” behavior might constitute illicit activity, but in the main the term appears to lie outside of the realm of legal constructs. Moreover, it can be questioned whether internet “trolling” is disreputable conduct or merely the kinds of uses and effects that are part and parcel of the internet.
Link to the rest at The IPKat
Several years ago, PG had the opportunity to work with Ray Niro, mentioned in the OP, on some patent infringement litigation.
Litigators of all stripes tend to be colorful characters, but Ray would certainly be among the leaders in any competition based upon litigation war stories. He seemed to have a story to illuminate any advice he provided to his IP clients.