Per Joe Mullin, many of the plaintiffs appear to be attorneys. [Justin Gray, Gray on Claims; earlier here and here] [Corrected Wed. evening: Mullin says in email he initially overestimated the number of suits filed directly on attorneys' behalf.]
“Phoenix Media/Communications, which owns The Boston Phoenix and other local alternative weeklies and websites, is suing popular social networking site Facebook for allegedly violating a patent related to setting up online personal profile pages.” [Boston Globe]
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).