The Competition Is On: How Many Companies Can You Sue In A Single Patent Infringement Lawsuit?

from the taking-bets dept

Earlier this month, we noted the growing trend of patent holders to sue a ton of companies at once, rather than suing a few at a time. There are probably two major reasons for this. First, is that companies that sense they're about to get sued for infringement have been a lot more aggressive in filing for declaratory judgments saying they don't infringe. This matters because then the lawsuit is more likely to take place in a court that the company is comfortable with, rather than where the patent holder wants to file (which is Marshall, Texas). The second, and probably much bigger, reason is that patent holders are scared of both the pending patent reform bill in Congress and all the efforts by the Supreme Court to reel in many of the egregious abuses of the patent system. And, of course, since the latest case on that subject that the Supreme Court is checking out involves whether or not patent holders can shake down companies up and down the supply chain (meaning that it gets licenses for the same item many times over), it's no surprise to see many patent holders filing massive lawsuits of just that nature quickly.

The anonymous Troll Tracker lawyer notes that this past Tuesday alone 126 companies were sued for patent infringement, 113 of those in Marshall. However, as he notes, much of that is due to one patent holder, who sued a massive 91 or 92 companies (Troll Tracker says 91, the Inquirer says 92 and has the list if you want to count). And, of course, the patent holder in question is suing up and down the supply chain to get all of those companies included. As the Troll Tracker notes: "He sued the allegedly infringing manufacturer. And he sued every single one of the manufacturer's customers. And he sued every single one of the manufacturer's customers' retailers." Expect to see more cases along these lines in the coming months, so perhaps we should start keeping a tally to see who wins for the largest single number of companies sued for infringement in a single lawsuit.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  •  
    identicon
    Alfred E. Neuman, Nov 30th, 2007 @ 6:51pm

    Is that his real name ?

    "In fact, I think that every single one of you reading this blog is probably infringing Harthcock's patent right now. Stop that. No really, stop, or Harthcock will sue you, too. I said stop using those microprocessors already!!!!"

    Dear Harthcock (smirk)
    Bring it on. Ok, I can't stand it HaHAHAHAHA.

     

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  •  
    identicon
    Yaaar death to trolls!, Nov 30th, 2007 @ 7:03pm

    Speaking of the top of my head (never a good idea), but wouldn't Congress' patent reform be retroactive, effectively rendering the efforts of trolls futile? I guess they must be hoping for an early settlement and trying to get what they can.

     

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    •  
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      R.H., Nov 30th, 2007 @ 7:22pm

      Re: Retroactive Patent Reform

      No bill of attainder or ex post facto Law shall be passed. - excerpt from the U.S. Constitution Article I Section 9. Unfortunately, that means that Congress can't make anything better for the current defendants however, they can fix problems for the future.

       

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    Barrenwaste, Dec 1st, 2007 @ 6:22am

    Hunh?

    The retailers and wholesalers? Retailers and wholesalers, for the most part, have no clue who holds patents on what. If the judges allow this to happen, the retailers and wholesalers being sued, it will be extremely bad precedent for business everywhere. Take for example the store I run. We are a small business, but we offer something in the neihborhood of 50 thousand different items. If I have to track each of those items for patent infringement as well as the new items I pick up, nothing will make it to the shelves before the public has moved on to something else. Not only will it potentially take years just to find the patent holders for that amount of product but patents are often in dispute. Even if they aren't in dispute at the moment, I may check, find it legal, and two weeks later get hit because the patent is now in dispute. In either case, I am not an expert on infringement. How am I to know which way the wind will blow in any particular case? This isn't just rediculus, it's very potentialy a business killer. These people are out of control and need to be stopped before they destroy the economy. Don't think they will? What happens when the dust settles and all the small businesses are gone and only one or two multinationals are left?

     

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    •  
      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Dec 1st, 2007 @ 2:08pm

      Re: Hunh?

      You know it and i know it. And the people doing the suing know it. But theyre dicks and dont care.

       

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    •  
      identicon
      angry dude, Dec 1st, 2007 @ 4:05pm

      Shut up, techdirt retards !!!

      This a small business owner suing a bunch of multinationals for patent infringement

      The company website is http://www.siliconlaude.com

      Precisely the reason why patents are needed in this society

      As for the merits of this particular case, the judge and the jury will have access to all of the facts to make a proper decision.

      For future times, do a little research before buying into Mike's anti-patent and anti-copyright propaganda...

       

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  •  
    identicon
    Joe Shmo, Dec 1st, 2007 @ 7:40am

    One of many

    "Microcomputing device for exchanging data while executing an application" Patent number 6347368.

    This is funny:
    "Those skilled in the art, however, will recognize that many modifications and variations besides those specifically mentioned may be made in the techniques described herein without departing substantially from the concept of the present invention. Accordingly, it should be clearly understood that the form of the invention as described herein is exemplary only and is not intended as a limitation on the scope of the invention. "

    Having to defend against this sort of legal scam is a waste. The time, money and expertise wasted would be better spent on productive rather than destructive activities.

     

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      angry dude, Dec 1st, 2007 @ 4:18pm

      Re: One of many

      Hey, Chmo

      Didn't they teach you not to judge patents based on their titles and abstracts ?

      Go to the claims, punk

      As for the quoted section, this is a standard boilerplate inserted by lawyers into each and every patent application.

      Go fuck yourself, you, brainless waste of organic material

       

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      •  
        identicon
        LBD, Dec 1st, 2007 @ 4:52pm

        Re: Re: One of many

        If it's in every paitent, doesn't that make them ALL scams?



        Hmmmmm....

         

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        identicon
        Joe Shmo, Dec 1st, 2007 @ 5:35pm

        Re: Re: One of many

        Hey AD,

        Good to see ya again man! I was waiting for your valuable contribution to the discussion at hand. You are such a positive influence upon this forum. I do not know how everyone would survive without your in depth analysis of the topic at hand.

        Again, thank you so much AD!

        btw, I still think their claim is hilarious.

         

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    Max Powers, Dec 1st, 2007 @ 5:59pm

    The answer to the ?

    The magic number is 150. Why? Because it will qualify for the Guinness Book of Records.

     

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    FBob, Dec 1st, 2007 @ 10:33pm

    Not at the party

    I agree that we should let the courts work this out, not to mention that I'd hate to worry that some corporate attorney might otherwise go hungry. At brief glance, it seems odd that some companies are missing. I see AMD but neither Intel nor Motorola. Scientific Atlanta (and parent Cisco) is there but not General Instrument. And what about the phone companies? Everyone sues the phone companies.

     

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    identicon
    Kenta Sato, Dec 2nd, 2007 @ 5:37pm

    Name hit list

    explicit formatting is perhaps another reason of massive lawsuit against patent licensing infringement in the 126 lists.

     

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    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 3rd, 2007 @ 12:24am

    whats is that like a reverse class action suite?

     

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    identicon
    Mike, Dec 3rd, 2007 @ 11:21am

    The Competition Is On: How Many Companies Can You

    One needs to look at the strategy of Mr. Troll. Mr. Troll lets you know that the later you settle the more it will cost. The smaller defendants settle quickly for an amount they can afford and this gives Mr. Troll more money which not only goes into his pocket but goes to finance the suit. By the time the smaller ones settle there is enough money in the Troll's pocket to a) be happy, and b)play the "hard eight" with the largest defendants. If the Troll loses...he still walks away with money, if he wins he has hit the lottery. Thus, the more defendants he has the greater the profit. What this also does is create chaos in the defendants' dugout. Initially they try to cooperate, but eventually entropy takes over because they cannot agree on a course of action and each defendant is looking over his shoulder to see if the other defendants are upset by a suggested strategy. This prevents creativity and guarantees a lack of focus.
    Great strategy if your a Troll. Basically a legal mugging.
    Mike

     

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      identicon
      angry dude, Dec 3rd, 2007 @ 2:05pm

      Re: The Competition Is On: How Many Companies Can

      Idiot,

      You should know that this particular lawsuit was filed pro se

      It looks more like a public statement by the abused inventor than carefully ploted legal strategy

      In the latter case contigency lawyers would be certainly involved

      You just don't have a slightest idea about what it means to go pro se

      Just read about Bob Kearns: the guy went pro se against automotive industry

      If you are a reasonable person never ever sue a bunch of multinationals pro se - better hire good contingency lawyers to beet the crap out of defendants before they bury you in their motions

       

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      •  
        identicon
        Janos Grey, Dec 3rd, 2007 @ 4:36pm

        Re: Re: The Competition Is On: How Many Companies

        "You should know that this particular lawsuit was filed pro se

        It looks more like a public statement by the abused inventor than carefully ploted legal strategy"

        Actually, it looks like he's betting that at least some of the companies he's suing are simply going to settle instead of going to court, thus saving himself the lawyer's fee.

        Harthcock stated that the MIPS EJTAG violated literally almost "every element of Claim 1 and Claim 2 of the '368 Patent."

        After looking at Claim 1 and Claim 2 of his patent, I have to agree. Of course, the reason he's correct is because his claims cover extremely generic processes.

        Summary of claims 1 & 2 - A programmable microcomputing device that can transfer data to an external device while simultaneously running a program through a standardized interface.

        I can understand bringing a case against MIPS if he legitimately feels that his patent has been infringed, but suing all the licensees of MIPS shows that he's hoping for settlements rather than depend on the strength of his patent.

        "If you are a reasonable person never ever sue a bunch of multinationals pro se - better hire good contingency lawyers to beet the crap out of defendants before they bury you in their motions"

        That would apparently be true of just about every federal court other than the one in Marshall Texas, home of the Rocket Docket. When the judge pats himself on the back for denying motions and rushing cases through the system, you create a haven for patent trolls.

         

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