Patent Troll Attorney Licensed Patents To Be Used Against His Own Firm's Clients

from the gotta-keep-the-company-busy dept

Within the patent attorney/patent trolling world, there's been a story gathering steam over the last couple months that seems to only get more bizarre every week. It started, simply enough, at the beginning of September when a company, which was just formed a few months ago, called Illinois Computer Research, sued Google for patent infringement. The patent in question (which amusingly enough, can be found hosted at Google) is officially for "Enhancing touch and feel on the internet". The details show that it's really just describing how you might represent a book online -- and, in fact, the lawsuit points to Google's book scanning project as being infringing. There's nothing all that interesting there, other than yet another case of a company doing nothing suing a company that's doing quite a bit of innovating using an overly broad an obvious patent. However, at the end of the article linked above there's a small aside that has turned out to be much more important: "The inventor listed on the patent is Scott C. Harris of San Diego, Calif. Presumably, he is the same Scott C. Harris listed as a Principal in the San Diego office of Fish & Richardson P.C, a patent prosecution firm." From that, you would probably assume that Fish and Richardson was behind ICR's lawsuit. In fact, you'd be wrong. Google is actually a Fish & Richardson client... whereas ICR is represented by Niro, Scavone, a firm that has fought against Fish & Richardson quite a bit.

Then the details started to come out. It appears that a top partner at Fish & Richardson was filing for patents on the side and then licensing them out to patent trolls, often so that they would then sue companies -- including companies represented by his own employer, Fish & Richardson. Now, I know I said that I'm not a fan of the term "patent troll," but in this case it appears completely warranted, as the very same Scott Harris happens to run a website (currently taken down) called ImAPatentTroll.com. If he's okay with it, then I see no reason not to use it to describe him. Fish & Richardson fired Harris, but the story doesn't end there. Illinois Computer Research isn't just suing Google... it's also suing Fish & Richardson for supposedly trying to get Harris to get it to drop the suit. Now, Fish & Richardson has filed quite a response, claiming that Harris used company time, equipment and resources to file for a bunch of patents -- and then, rather than just licensing or selling those patents, would work out special deals with the companies he licensed the patents to, allowing him (personally) to get a cut of any legal wins those firms get in suing for infringement. He even would point out firms that might be infringing on the patent. Many of the negotiations for those relationships were done using his Fish & Richardson email -- even one email discussion that pointed out that Google (again, an F&R client who Harris had even done some work for) was potentially infringing on Harris' patent and could be a good target for a lawsuit. Welcome to the lovely world of patent extortion, where the money from the practice is so lucrative that one of the highest paid lawyers at a top law firm would quietly license his patents to be used against his own firm's clients in exchange for a cut of the profits.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 19th, 2007 @ 7:20pm

    Dick the Butcher: The first thing we do, let's kill all the lawyers.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2.  
    identicon
    Sal, Oct 19th, 2007 @ 9:12pm

    If I was a Satan loving extortionist it'd be perfectly sensible to me.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3.  

    Typical Corporate Behavior

    What a story! Another case of greed at it's best. I hope the guy winds up in a hole in the desert. Of course if it was me that got caught that would be a different story.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4.  
    identicon
    Bob Johnson, Oct 20th, 2007 @ 6:09am

    Ethics in the legal profession...

    Obviously, this troll didn't follow the basic tenets of ethics in the legal system. It pisses me off because this is the type of behavior that gives lawyers a horrible name. There's lots of money to be made in any area of law if you're willing to skirt any ethical standards and greed helps lawyers do this. There are lawyers out there who do quite well for themselves and are ethical, but it takes a TON of hard work to do it. It appears that this troll just didn't want to do the work or spend the time...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 20th, 2007 @ 8:04am

    Re: Ethics in the legal profession...

    There's lots of money to be made in ANY profession if you're willing to be crooked. Not just law.

    Even politics - but don't get me started . . . :)

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6.  
    identicon
    Alfred E. Neuman, Oct 20th, 2007 @ 8:20am

    Wow

    Queue Angry Dude in 3 .. 2 .. 1

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7.  
    identicon
    Michael Schmitt, Oct 20th, 2007 @ 8:52am

    Litigation Industry

    All other industries are highly regulated and have all sorts of government organizations overseeing them (OSHA, FDA, EPA, etc.). When is the litigation industry going to start to be regulated too? I realize that there might only be 10% out there doing such things, but isn't that enough to warrant regulation for this industry?
    Oh, wait... the lawyers would be helping to regulate it. Damn.
    I just think it is very interesting that lawyers organize seminars that other lawyers come to in order to learn the strategies of how to sue. Ever see those commercials on TV regarding Mesothelioma, taking phen-phen, or other class-action suits that spend lots of money for TV time? Part of the litigation industry...
    Say anything about it, and you might get sued.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 20th, 2007 @ 1:55pm

    How can you try to make a scumbag feel guilty when they proudly set up a website announcing their pride in what they do?

    I've said it before and I'll say it again: It may be overgeneralizing but Attorneys produce absolutely NOTHING of concrete value to society other than interpretation of its laws, which, in many cases, is twisted to attorneys whims. Why law is included among the noble professions is beyond me.

    If 90% of all doctors were to suddenly die tomorrow it would be a crisis.

    If 90% of attorneys died.....?

    pfft

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 20th, 2007 @ 3:24pm

    Re: Ethics in the legal profession...

    Obviously, this troll didn't follow the basic tenets of ethics in the legal system.
    Huh? You're kidding, right? That's not how business works, except for loosers.

    It pisses me off because this is the type of behavior that gives lawyers a horrible name.
    Well, I ADMIRE him! You should give "Atlas Shrugged" by Ayn Rand a read sometime. Or maybe not. The world needs dumb "nice guys" to feed the smart ones.

    It appears that this troll just didn't want to do the work or spend the time...
    He was just smarter than that. Can't blame him for not being stupid.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10.  
    identicon
    Nicolo M., Oct 20th, 2007 @ 3:34pm

    Rewards

    If screwing people over is so bad, then why does society reward people so well for it?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Asian, Oct 20th, 2007 @ 4:11pm

    Re: rewards

    with all the money google has ... cant it just get a few people " shipped off to the moon" or buried 6 ft under

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 20th, 2007 @ 4:38pm

    Re: Re: Ethics in the legal profession...

    i think you need to read that book again...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13.  
    identicon
    Cynic, Oct 20th, 2007 @ 6:56pm

    Re: Rewards

    Actually, society is just lousy at punishing people for screwing other people over, but it does. This will seem a digression but it really is on topic: a magazine I won't name (for fear of copyright, but you can guess its name) once pointed out that many pilots crash and die for doing things they have done many times before, but sadly got away with it. Society is like airplanes, forgiving up to a point, but when it hits the fan, watch out. So in my opinion it's not so much "society's" fault for not consistently punishing jerks that keep breaking the rules, but rather their own faults for not seeing the eventual end to which their actions are leading (or, their family and friends for looking the other way, but that's not always the case...some people you just can't talk sense to).

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14.  
    identicon
    QuoteMark, Oct 21st, 2007 @ 4:29am

    Re: Re: Rewards

    Hmmm...yes we are a lazy pack of losers, aren't we. Our society is the equivalent of a dumb hick watching the Jerry Springer Show!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15.  
    identicon
    Willton, Oct 21st, 2007 @ 7:57am

    Re:

    If 90% of attorneys died.....?

    There would be anarchy.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16.  
    identicon
    kneeL, Oct 21st, 2007 @ 9:00am

    they did what now

    I got lost at the part where you said "Fish". It gets fairly confusing after that

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17.  
    identicon
    west, Oct 21st, 2007 @ 9:02am

    Open Source Law

    ALTLAW.ORG
    a frayed knot

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 21st, 2007 @ 9:26am

    Re: Re: Rewards

    Actually, society is just lousy at punishing people for screwing other people over, but it does.
    Punishes them by making them rich. The world's greatest fortunes were built by screwing people over. Just ask the Native Americans.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19.  
    identicon
    Stephan Hall, Oct 21st, 2007 @ 2:49pm

    Attorneys

    Nothing new here. Attorneys have arranged the legal system so that they can legally extort money from society. It's sort of like welfare for the law profession. They suck from society. How about some real late breaking new!!!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20.  
    identicon
    Stephan Hall, Oct 21st, 2007 @ 3:06pm

    Attorneys

    Nothing new here. Attorneys have arranged the legal system so that they can legally extort money from society. It's sort of like welfare for the law profession. They suck from society. How about some real late breaking news!!!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21.  
    identicon
    Patent Chicken, Oct 22nd, 2007 @ 7:11am

    Is it ever OK for a patent attorney to be an inven

    What about a different set of facts.

    Assume a patent attorney:

    a) invents a chemical process,

    b) expressly informs his law firm about his interest in setting up a chemical company,

    c) engages independent patent counsel outside his firm to represent him,

    d) engages his law firm to represent his company (thus seeking to avoid conflicts),

    e) actively seeks venture capital to become a producer rather than a troll,

    f) has never represented a client in the same area of technology,

    g) at the time of invention, no firm clients had been involved in even the same general area of technology.

    Is this acceptable? Or is it inherently bad because a patent attorney is seeking to be an innovator?

    If you can't guess why I'm asking, it's because I am that guy. I set up a company, after informing my law firm of my interests in doing so. My company is trying to raise funds to set up a production facility. I'm still maintaining a full-time position at the firm, and all of my clients are in totally unrelated technologies.

    I'm curious to hear what my patent colleagues would say.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  22.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 22nd, 2007 @ 8:51am

    Re:


    If 90% of attorneys died.....?


    the remaining 10% would sue us into oblivion. They would claim copyright, trademark, and patent infrigement somehow and would sue for ungodly amounts of money in order to compensate their "irreparable damages".

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  23.  
    identicon
    Matt Bennett, Oct 23rd, 2007 @ 9:58am

    I'm not a lawyer, but I'm pretty sure this constitutes a breach of Harris's Fiduciary Responsibility to his employer at the time, Google, and his clients more generally, and it's exactly the sort of thing that will get you disbarred.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  24.  
    identicon
    terrified of anarchy, Oct 31st, 2007 @ 12:50pm

    JAPAN: CESSPIT OF ANARCHY

    USA: 1 attorney per ~500 people
    JAPAN: 1 attorney per ~10k people

    It's too bad about Japan, what with the anarchy, blood in the streets, and all. If only they had more than %5 the USA's per-capita attorneys things might've stayed peaceful and prosperous for longer.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  25.  
    identicon
    HowdyDoD, Nov 17th, 2007 @ 2:29pm

    Regulation

    It sounds like Scott Harris is about to get "regulated" in court for the next 10 years.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  26.  
    identicon
    Idiot Savant, Jan 11th, 2008 @ 4:22pm

    Re: Re: Ethics in the legal profession...

    Harris and Fish & Richardson were made for each other. Fish & Richardson can screw people with the best of 'em.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  27.  
    identicon
    john o'haire, Jan 29th, 2010 @ 7:24pm

    attorneys

    Did you hear about the lawyer who took VIAGRA?

    He got TALLER......

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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