What the federal judge has done is attack the heart of the patent-troll system. Normally, patent trolls rely on large numbers. If they threaten a large number of companies, they’ll make more than enough to justify their efforts. Then, by suing a handful of other companies, they scare more innocent firms into paying or else.
Often, when a judge slaps down one patent troll in one case, the penalties are less than the total of the other monies extorted. In short, the troll comes out ahead. By placing the fines on the lawyers personally — well, to be precise, on their law firms — it threatens to change the dynamics. If lawyers stop taking these cases, patent trolls will no longer have a viable way to threaten thousands of companies.
I honestly hadn't realized that part of the process, and this seems like a pretty nifty first step to fighting patent trolls.