U.S. District Judge William Smith in Providence vacated a $388 million award to Uniloc, a Singapore-based company, ruling that the jury “lacked a grasp of the issues before it and reached a finding without a legally sufficient basis.” [Bloomberg]
Apparently plaintiff TechRadium asserts patent rights over emergency notification systems, and Twitter came into its cross-hairs because, among its many, many other uses, it permits municipalities and other users to warn affected persons of emergencies. [Elefant, Legal Blog Watch; earlier]
TechCrunch and Wired/Threat Level have details on a Texas firm’s claim.
Incidentally, and as a reminder, you can follow this site on Twitter at @overlawyered (a mix of auto-Tweets of new posts, and original links/material), and my personal account at @walterolson (some law-related content, some other). Point of Law, where I also post, has an account too.
Or so readers infer from a $200 million patent infringement verdict against Microsoft [TechDirt, Slashdot]
Apparently jurors are keen to construe the story before them as a search for fault, even if that’s not quite how patent law actually works (IP Law and Business)
A Massachusetts company known as Worlds.com, which to my knowledge has never produced a product of the sort known as a “Massive Multiplayer Online Roleplaying Game,” nevertheless claims a patent in the concept. These games, the best known of which are probably World of Warcraft or Everquest, have been around for well over ten years, and are quite the moneymaking ventures for their producers.
Now Worlds.com is suing NCSoft, a Korean company that produces the games Lineage and City of Heroes, based on a patent filed in 1999 and issued in 2004 for a “system and method for enabling users to interact in a virtual space,” though some of the NCSoft games alleged to breach the patent were produced before Worlds.com even filed its application. As Words.com has never produced such a game, and appears to be little more than a vehicle for holding the patent, one expects that NCSoft will counterclaim seeking to invalidate the patent. Nevertheless, Worlds.com announces that it would “welcome licensing inquiries from the on-line game industry,” meaning Sony and Blizzard, to allow those companies to continue making money from their own games.
The best story I could find on this came from The Register, which has the application and notes that the patent is an “extremely broad” one which could reach beyond games. Other informative coverage can be found at gaming sites, including Broken Toys, Kotaku, and Virtual World News.
A trend? Following up on yesterday’s post about the camera and Medtronic cases: “A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit on Monday upheld an attorney fee award of nearly $17 million because of baseless filings and bad faith patent litigation by two drug companies. A district court awarded the fees to Takeda Chemical Industries, which had sued two generic drug companies — Mylan Laboratories and Alphapharm Pty. Ltd. — for patent infringement. …The district court agreed with Takeda that both companies lacked a good faith basis for their certification filings and had engaged in litigation misconduct.” (Marcia Coyle, “Panel Upholds $17M Attorney Fee Award, Cites Bad-Faith Patent Litigation by Drug Companies”, National Law Journal, Dec. 9).
“Frequent patent defendants say they’re hit by frivolous lawsuits all the time. But it’s very rare for a judge to find a patent lawsuit to be frivolous enough to grant sanctions and attorney’s fees.” Last week, however, a judge in Peoria issued Rule 11 sanctions against a company called Triune Star which held a patent on a certain type of GPS-using camera. The patent examiner had taken care to limit the patent to infrared cameras to overcome an obviousness objection, but the plaintiff’s lawyers — Keith Rockey and Kathleen Lyons of Chicago-based Rockey, Depke & Lyons — then proceeded to sue three big companies that had sold conventional cameras. A judge awarded the defendants reasonable costs and attorney’s fees, something defense lawyer Brian Rupp says has happened only a few times in the last decade. (Joe Mullin, Prior Art, Dec. 4 via TechDirt; Techdirt, Feb. 26 (Medtronic)).
It’s not often that patent litigation furnishes the subject of a new Hollywood film; inventor-side attorneys must be hoping the David-and-Goliath theme of the Universal Pictures release Flash of Genius redounds to their benefit. (Brian Baxter, AmLaw Daily, Oct. 3). The original New Yorker article on which the film is based is by no means devoid of balance, and includes a discussion of the late Jerome Lemelson, a longtime Overlawyered favorite (John Seabrook, The New Yorker, Jan. 11, 1993). Unrelatedly, a patent attorney turns up as the lead character of a fiction thriller in Paul Goldstein’s “A Patent Lie” (Stephen Albainy-Jenei, Patent Baristas, Sept. 29).
“McDermott, Will & Emery and client Medtronic Inc. must pay $4.3 million in attorney fees as punishment for alleged ‘abuse of advocacy’ in a patent case, a Colorado federal judge ordered Tuesday.” As we noted in our coverage back in February, the judge found at that time that the McDermott lawyers “artfully avoided the limitations of the patent claims and created an illusion of infringement. They did so with full awareness that their case was without merit.” (Zusha Elinson, The Recorder, Oct. 2; WSJ law blog, Oct. 2).
More things it would be better to avoid doing if you’re a lawyer:
- Claim to be assetless and thus unable to make restitution for the largest theft of state money in Massachusetts history even though you live in a $1.5 million Florida house with a $70K BMW and other goodies [Boston Herald, Globe, disbarred attorney Richard Arrighi]
- Botch appeals and then refrain from telling clients their cases have been lost [Clifford Van Syoc, reprimanded by New Jersey high court; NJLJ; seven years ago]
- Attempt to deduct “more than $300,000 in prostitutes, p0rn, sex toys and erotic massages” on your income tax returns, even if you are “thought of as a good tax lawyer” [NY Post] Nor ought you to accept nude dances from a client as partial payment for legal fees [Chicago Tribune; for an unrelated tale of a purportedly consensual lap dance given by secretary to partner, see NYLJ back in April]
- Introduce a patent application purportedly signed in part by someone who in fact had been dead for a year or two [Law.com/The Recorder, Chicago's Niro, Scavone, Haller & Niro, of blog-stalking fame, client's patent declared unenforceable] Or pursue a patent-infringement case based on what a federal judge later ruled to be a “tissue of lies” [NYLJ; New York law firm Abelman, Frayne & Schwab and lawyer David Jaroslawicz, ordered to pay opponents' legal fees; earlier mentions of Jaroslawicz at this site here, here, here, and here]
- Demand ransom for a stolen Leonardo da Vinci painting [biggest U.K. art theft ever, all defendants have pleaded not guilty, LegalWeek via ABA Journal]
Shrinkwrap contracts in the produce section (Mike Madison, Sept. 18).
Readers know I’m sympathetic to the idea of patent reform, but I have to agree with Derek Lowe’s skepticism as he tears a hole in the Michael Heller story told to the WSJ Law Blog about an alleged Alzheimer’s drug that will “earn billions” but can’t be tested because of patent gridlock. A must read as he eviscerates the law and science behind that statement, and read the follow-up as well. As Lowe points out,
the safe harbor provisions of the 1984 Hatch-Waxman Act, as reaffirmed in the 2005 Merck v. Integra decision by the Supreme Court [protects] from infringement [claims] in the use of a patented compound for purposes of submitting regulatory filings. And the language of the ruling makes it look like it’s intended to cover all sorts of patented technologies as well.