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Prologue

There's a derogatory term in Silicon Valley for companies that amass huge troves of patents and make money by threatening lawsuits: "patent trolls." When Jeff Kelling's Internet company Fototime was sued - along with more than 130 other companies - for violating someone's patent, he wondered if it was a troll (which the company denies), and then settled out of court.

Act One

NPR reporter Laura Sydell and This American Life producer/Planet Money co-host Alex Blumberg tell the story of Intellectual Ventures, which is accused of being the largest of the patent trolls. The investigation takes them to a small town in Texas, where they find a hallway full of empty companies with no employees.