Husband Sues Google For Patent Infringement; Wife Sues Google For Trademark Infringement

from the money-money-money-money dept

On Friday, we mentioned in passing that a class action lawsuit had been filed against Google, claiming that its allowance of trademarked terms to be used in keyword advertising was an abuse of trademark law. Eric Goldman had an interesting analysis of the case, noting that it was the first such attempt to create a class action lawsuit around this issue. As we've discussed, such lawsuits don't make much sense. First, there's no violation of trademark in running an ad against a trademarked keyword (there's no confusion by the user and there's no dilution of the mark). Second, even if there is trademark infringement, the infringer would be the company taking out the ad, not Google. But why let that stop a chance to score millions from Google.

When I saw the NY Times coverage of the lawsuit, it caught my attention that the woman behind the lawsuit was named Audrey Spangenberg, because it reminded me of Erich Spangenberg, a rather notorious patent hoarder who has made millions producing nothing, but suing an awful lot. This is the same Erich Spangenberg who had to pay $4 million after he was caught shuffling patents around among his many different shell companies, so that he could sue Chrysler three times over the same patent, despite earlier settlements promising never to use the same patent against Chrysler again.

Still, I figured it must be a coincidence -- surely, there must be a fair number of Spangenbergs in the world. However, Joe Mullin, IP reporter extraordinaire, has a detailed post explaining that the two are, in fact, married, and also detailing how Erich Spangenberg has sued Google multiple times for patent infringement. Apparently, the family is branching out into questionable trademark lawsuits as well. Audrey Spangenberg claims (don't they always?) that the lawsuit is about "respect for intellectual property" rather than money. So, I'm sure that she'll gladly donate any money she and her husband make from all these lawsuits to groups that respect intellectual property, such as Creative Commons, EFF or the Free Software Foundation, right?


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    :Lobo Santo, May 19th, 2009 @ 8:22am

    Any Moment

    There will be a remark from a troll: "Anonymous Coward" illuminating bias and a thorough lack of comprehension...

     

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

  2.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 19th, 2009 @ 8:39am

    Re: Any Moment

    Self-fulfilling prophecy...

     

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

  3.  
    identicon
    :Lobo Santo, May 19th, 2009 @ 8:50am

    Re: Re: Any Moment

    ... is the very best kind. ;P

    Your turn:

    Hello! My name is...

     

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

  4.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Poster, May 19th, 2009 @ 8:53am

    Re: Re: Re: Any Moment

    ...Slim Shady.

     

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

  5.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 19th, 2009 @ 9:11am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Any Moment

    Will the real Slim Shady please stand up...

     

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

  6.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 19th, 2009 @ 9:25am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Any Moment

    please stand up...

     

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

  7.  
    identicon
    Weird Harolds #2 Fan, May 19th, 2009 @ 9:36am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Any Moment

    Tsk! Tsk!

    The correct answer is:

    ...Inigo Montoya. You killed my father, prepare to die.

     

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

  8.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 19th, 2009 @ 9:37am

    Seventh!

     

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

  9.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 19th, 2009 @ 9:45am

    I can't get upset at either of these people now! I envy them! Not for what they do but how they work together! It truly is beautiful and marriage at it's best. If only they used their combined powers for good and not evil.

     

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

  10.  
    identicon
    Bettawrekonize, May 19th, 2009 @ 9:47am

    I suppose they do make a great couple.

     

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

  11.  
    identicon
    Humanely inhumane, May 19th, 2009 @ 10:05am

    When will a secret underground society form and annihilate white collar scum like these two?

     

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

  12.  
    identicon
    Murlin99, May 19th, 2009 @ 10:27am

    All your trademark are belong to us......


    Sorry, after seeing the Slim Shady references I had to go there.

     

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

  13.  
    identicon
    seo, May 19th, 2009 @ 10:33am

    12th!

     

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

  14.  
    identicon
    Bettawrekonize, May 19th, 2009 @ 10:36am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Any Moment

    "...Slim Shady."

    RIAA: Copyright Infringement. Or trademark. Or something, wait, let me ask my lawyers what we can sue you for.

     

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

  15.  
    identicon
    Kevin H, May 19th, 2009 @ 11:00am

    My turn

    "Somebody set up us the bomb."

     

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

  16.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 19th, 2009 @ 11:42am

    What you say?

     

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

  17.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 19th, 2009 @ 11:43am

    You have no chance to patent hoard make your time.

     

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

  18.  
    identicon
    Jake, May 19th, 2009 @ 12:18pm

    Someone somewhere is going to make a lot of money from blog software that forces readers to take a sobriety test before posting a comment...

     

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

  19.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 19th, 2009 @ 12:33pm

    Re:

    It's not sobriety that should be tested. It's age followed by IQ.

     

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

  20.  
    identicon
    Joel, May 19th, 2009 @ 12:34pm

    Does it ever stop?

    7 Deadly Sins. And Greed is one of them. How many others do you think they've tried?

    As Americans we have so many liberties and freedoms. But rather than use them to better ourselves and improve the quality of life for everyone, we have these petty, childish people running around twisting any law they can to make a profit off of someone else. This core issues don't matter, only whether they can make someone else pay. This is as bad as insurance fraud - and these people should be treated as criminals.

    Maybe they should have to pay all legal fees and court costs as well as a healthy 'fee' for every case they lose or any lawsuit that a judge rules as frivilous - that would slow them down from thier greed.

    People like these are the reason why every advertisement and every product has to have disclaimers on them.
    maybe we should compile a list of all of the stupid warning labels on products that are out there so we can see what they'll sue over next.

     

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

  21.  
    identicon
    John Paradox, May 19th, 2009 @ 12:38pm

    The family that sues together

    ....gets a volume discount from the lawyer
    NOT!

    J/P=?

     

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

  22.  
    identicon
    angry dude, May 19th, 2009 @ 12:43pm

    STFU

    Angry Dude (TM) says to all of you techdirt lemming-punks:
    STFU !!!

    Everybody knows that Google founder-punks make money on things that don't belong to them, like your very personal info

     

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

  23.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 19th, 2009 @ 3:45pm

    Don't hate the player...

     

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

  24.  
    icon
    Ronald J Riley (profile), May 19th, 2009 @ 6:07pm

    Re: Does it ever stop?

    "This is as bad as insurance fraud - and these people should be treated as criminals."

    This is so refreshing, finally someone on TechDIRT sees the truth. The insurance industry has been defrauding policyholders for a a very long time. Their conduct is atrocious, every bit as bad as patent pirating tech companies.

    In fact, the insurance industry is one of the pillars of support of the Coalition for Patent Fairness (aka. Piracy Coalition). Banking is another, washed up tech the third (companies who started as inventors but lost their edge), and last tech who never produced a really significant invention (examples being Dell, Cisco, and Micron).

    Ronald J. Riley,


    Speaking only on my own behalf.
    Affiliations:
    President - www.PIAUSA.org - RJR at PIAUSA.org
    Executive Director - www.InventorEd.org - RJR at InvEd.org
    Senior Fellow - www.PatentPolicy.org
    President - Alliance for American Innovation
    Caretaker of Intellectual Property Creators on behalf of deceased founder Paul Heckel
    Washington, DC
    Direct (810) 597-0194 / (202) 318-1595 - 9 am to 8 pm EST.

     

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

  25.  
    icon
    Ronald J Riley (profile), May 19th, 2009 @ 6:18pm

    Re: Re: Does it ever stop?

    PS, Mike's business is an example, he told us so, of a company which has produced NO inventions. He seems to be quite proud of this.

    For every invention based company there are scores of companies who chug along producing mediocre services or reselling low margin commodities produced in developing countries. There is nothing wrong with this kind of business as long as they are not built on stealing others property to underwrite their operations.

    Many people even eek out a living this way. But decent margins come from invention based business (one exception being the crooks in banking and financial services).

    New wealth comes from inventions. Most of the other business are based on moving wealth from one person's pocket to another person's pocket. They can only prosper when someone is creating new wealth in the system.

    No parasite can prosper if they kill the host. The essence of the Patent Deform argument is that the parasites have forgotten their place in the grand scheme of things (Pay close attention Mike.)

    Ronald J. Riley,


    Speaking only on my own behalf.
    Affiliations:
    President - www.PIAUSA.org - RJR at PIAUSA.org
    Executive Director - www.InventorEd.org - RJR at InvEd.org
    Senior Fellow - www.PatentPolicy.org
    President - Alliance for American Innovation
    Caretaker of Intellectual Property Creators on behalf of deceased founder Paul Heckel
    Washington, DC
    Direct (810) 597-0194 / (202) 318-1595 - 9 am to 8 pm EST.

     

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

  26.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 19th, 2009 @ 6:37pm

    Joe Mullin, IP reporter extraordinaire

    Now this is a really funny joke. Most certainly Mike Masnick and Joe Mullin are cut from the same cloth. They march in lock step with both being incredibly anti-inventor.

    Good journalists do their best to write unbiased and balanced stories. Joe Mullin fails miserably at making the grade in this area.

    Joe Mullin carries on about shell companies. Inventors who are forced to sue disreputable patent pirating corporations generally set up a corporation for cases to limit the ability of abusive corporations to misuse the process of law. This is a direct response to the incredibly nasty tactics these companies employ.

    Neither Joe Mullin or Mike Masnick are stupid but both suffer from an inability to see the bigger picture.

    I have had the pleasure of knowing many people with truly great intellect. They come in a broad spectrum of ideologies. I am capable of respecting people with diverse views when they truly excel at what they do. But I have to tell all of you that these two are not even anywhere near close to being respectable because there is a profound intellectual dishonesty in how they operate.

    Their conduct is definitively extraordinary, just in the wrong way.

    Ronald J. Riley,


    Speaking only on my own behalf.
    Affiliations:
    President - www.PIAUSA.org - RJR at PIAUSA.org
    Executive Director - www.InventorEd.org - RJR at InvEd.org
    Senior Fellow - www.PatentPolicy.org
    President - Alliance for American Innovation
    Caretaker of Intellectual Property Creators on behalf of deceased founder Paul Heckel
    Washington, DC
    Direct (810) 597-0194 / (202) 318-1595 - 9 am to 8 pm EST.

     

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

  27.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 19th, 2009 @ 6:42pm

    Looks like Ronny had one too many Starbucks

     

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

  28.  
    icon
    Ronald J Riley (profile), May 19th, 2009 @ 6:49pm

    Erich Spangenberg & Other White Knights

    Joe Mullin and Mike Masnick like to demonize attorneys and patent enforcement companies who come to the rescue of independent and academic inventors and their small businesses.

    What Joe Mullin and Mike Masnick overlook is that these corporations play the lottery to see just how much they can get away with stealing and in the process they are killing job creation and stealing American ingenuity and prosperity to line their and only their own pockets.

    We all need to ask what motivates Joe Mullin and Mike Masnick? Are they really blind to how atrocious the conduct of the Coalition for Patent Fairness has become?

    Ronald J. Riley,


    Speaking only on my own behalf.
    Affiliations:
    President - www.PIAUSA.org - RJR at PIAUSA.org
    Executive Director - www.InventorEd.org - RJR at InvEd.org
    Senior Fellow - www.PatentPolicy.org
    President - Alliance for American Innovation
    Caretaker of Intellectual Property Creators on behalf of deceased founder Paul Heckel
    Washington, DC
    Direct (810) 597-0194 / (202) 318-1595 - 9 am to 8 pm EST.

     

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

  29.  
    icon
    Ronald J Riley (profile), May 19th, 2009 @ 7:29pm

    Joe Mullin Censorship ??

    Joe Mullin Censorship ??

    “http://amlawdaily.typepad.com/amlawdaily/2009/05/of-patent-trolls-and-trademark-champions-a -tale-of-two-spangenbergs.html
    May 18, 2009 1:03 PM
    Of Patent Trolls and Trademark Champions: A Tale of Two Spangenbergs
    Posted by Dimitra Kessenides - By Joe Mulllin in IP Law & Business”

    AMLawDaily has failed to post my response which follows to the forum. It appears that either the publication or Joe Mullin believe in censorship. It is a fact that Mike Masnick and I seriously disagree about IP issues but he has never stooped to the level of censoring my comments. Perhaps Mr. Mullin can explain why he has apparently chosen this path.

    === Response to Mullin ===

    Mr. Mullin most certainly has a biased perspective on IP issues. Big business rules supreme and small business or individual inventors should immediately assume a submissive position whenever the big guys want something.

    It seems obvious to me that Google has a pattern of conduct of disrespecting others IP rights, especially when they can make a easy buck doing so. We see this in Google's approach to dealing with inventors who have produced inventions which Google needs to advance their business interests and now we see Google setting up a situation where trademark owners get to bid against their competitors, with all the resulting money flowing to Google.

    Of course, it is unfortunate that they did this with someone connected to what from I can tell is a very effective litigator.

    Since Mr. Mullin thinks that Mrs. Spangenberg's martial arrangements are relevant to the underlying issue of Google's business model of selling others trademark rights I think it is also relevant to inquire as to why Mr. Mullin's coverage of these issues is so biased. Is this driven simply by extreme ideology and bias favoring big business or is there more to it? I have to wonder if there is any business relationship between Mr. Mullin and members of the Coalition for Patent Fairness (aka. the Piracy Coalition).

    Ronald J. Riley,


    Speaking only on my own behalf.
    Affiliations:
    President - www.PIAUSA.org - RJR at PIAUSA.org
    Executive Director - www.InventorEd.org - RJR at InvEd.org
    Senior Fellow - www.PatentPolicy.org
    President - Alliance for American Innovation
    Caretaker of Intellectual Property Creators on behalf of deceased founder Paul Heckel
    Washington, DC
    Direct (810) 597-0194 / (202) 318-1595 - 9 am to 8 pm EST.

     

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

  30.  
    icon
    Ronald J Riley (profile), May 19th, 2009 @ 7:36pm

    Just Warming Up, More To Come :)

    Some people have really flawed reasoning processes. For some reason TechDIRT seems to draw them.

     

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

  31.  
    icon
    Mike (profile), May 19th, 2009 @ 11:16pm

    Re: Re: Re: Does it ever stop?

    PS, Mike's business is an example, he told us so, of a company which has produced NO inventions. He seems to be quite proud of this.

    Just to clarify, this is 100% false (Ronald, why have you stooped to outright lying?). We've invented many things, and purposely chosen not to patent them -- and we often share them freely with the world, knowing that we benefit in other ways.

    New wealth comes from inventions.

    Unfortunately, the actual evidence shows that new wealth comes from *innovation* not invention. That is, bringing things to market more successfully, not just coming up with something new. This is what the research of Paul Romer has shown us in great detail.

    Most of the other business are based on moving wealth from one person's pocket to another person's pocket.

    Uh, that seems to be a perfect description for many of the folks who are your followers. They offer nothing in the marketplace, and only demand money. That's not economic growth. That's economic shrinkage.

    The essence of the Patent Deform argument is that the parasites have forgotten their place in the grand scheme of things

    I have come out quite clearly against the Patent Reform bill.

    I find it incredibly amusing that you continue to simply lie about me, since you have nothing to back up your insults.

     

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

  32.  
    identicon
    Joe Mullin, May 20th, 2009 @ 12:55pm

    Response to Ronald Riley

    Ronald Riley, first, regarding "censorship" -- you could easily post your comments on my blog, on AmLaw Daily, or both. I specifically invited you to do so during our last exchange and you did not respond. You're still welcome to do so. In addition, if you think I reported something incorrectly, you can send a correction notice to me, my editors, or both.

    I disagree that I am "anti-inventor." Applying scrutiny to patent lawsuits is not "anti-inventor."

    In addition to being a plaintiff in a novel trademark lawsuit, Audrey Spangenberg owns several heavily litigated patents. This wasn't in the NYT coverage. I thought this was newsworthy. I reported it.

    Finally, I have no business relationship with Coalition for Patent Fairness. I am not paid by CPF, members of CPF, or any other organization or company other than my employer, Incisive Media.

     

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

  33.  
    icon
    Ronald J Riley (profile), May 20th, 2009 @ 6:06pm

    Re: Mullin Response to Ronald Riley

    It sure is strange that I posted twice, two different days and it never appeared. Actions speak louder than words and your bias is so extreme that it is impossible to explain.

    Twenty years ago I founded the Professional Inventors Alliance to kick the crap out of big corporate patent thieves. We have made considerable progress.

    In the nineteen-nineties corporate thieves dismissed inventors. We handed their their heads in one session after another.

    Over the last five years Piracy Coalition members have painted a rosy picture of passage of Patent Deform every year only to be handed defeat after defeat.

    It seems that aside from larceny of inventors work on the grandest of scales that they are not doing too well.

    There is an important lesson in all this, and as soon as these crooks learn it we can all prosper. They need to start dealing reputably with inventors.

    The only reason that patent enforcement entities have a viable business model is that corporations are by choice creating huge liabilities. Starting licensing before use and their problems will go away after they make restitution for all their existing sins.

    Ronald J. Riley,


    Speaking only on my own behalf.
    Affiliations:
    President - www.PIAUSA.org - RJR at PIAUSA.org
    Executive Director - www.InventorEd.org - RJR at InvEd.org
    Senior Fellow - www.PatentPolicy.org
    President - Alliance for American Innovation
    Caretaker of Intellectual Property Creators on behalf of deceased founder Paul Heckel
    Washington, DC
    Direct (810) 597-0194 / (202) 318-1595 - 9 am to 8 pm EST.

     

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

  34.  
    icon
    Ronald J Riley (profile), May 20th, 2009 @ 6:53pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Does it ever stop?

    Mike,
    Do you have any idea of how many times I hear someone claim to be an inventor. This is especially true of second rate software hacks who recode others inventions in a marginally different way and convince themselves that they are inventive. Copying is not the same as producing the original invention.

    To be validated as an inventor you must teach the invention with a patent or with a disclosure document which meets the same criteria. You have never done this and show no signs of doing so, ergo actual inventors will never buy your claims that you are one.

    Using your definition of innovation is questionable. In any event you cannot have innovation without inventions. Misappropriating others inventions and combining them in a product does not make anyone an inventor, it makes them an infringer.

    When an inventor sues a sleaze bag infringer they are repossessing wealth which their invention created.

    And last, blackmailing trademark owners is flat out variation of a protection racket. Your inability to understand the underlying ethics of both this trademark issue and of stealing others' inventions tells all.

    Ronald J. Riley,


    Speaking only on my own behalf.
    Affiliations:
    President - www.PIAUSA.org - RJR at PIAUSA.org
    Executive Director - www.InventorEd.org - RJR at InvEd.org
    Senior Fellow - www.PatentPolicy.org
    President - Alliance for American Innovation
    Caretaker of Intellectual Property Creators on behalf of deceased founder Paul Heckel
    Washington, DC
    Direct (810) 597-0194 / (202) 318-1595 - 9 am to 8 pm EST.

     

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

  35.  
    identicon
    Bettawrekonize, May 21st, 2009 @ 8:43pm

    I respect Google's apparent business ethics and I hope it never changes. Rich and powerful entities hate to see the general population benefit from innovation at a decent price. If it were up to them they would charge us monopoly prices for water. Any company that tries to get rich by simply attacking Google is one I would try and avoid.

     

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

  36.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 9th, 2009 @ 4:41am

    what has a trademark lawsuit got to do with intellectual property?

     

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

  37.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 14th, 2009 @ 9:07am

    questioning

    ummmm i see nothing wrong with what these people have done they have bought one persons ideas, which were original. Asked companies to simply pay for rights, these companies refuse and they get sued. an idea is a product so thus i dont understand what this couple has done wrong. They are living the American dream.... maybe you should go out and try to do something to advance yourselves instead over squabbling how a person makes his money within the law........

     

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

  38.  
    identicon
    Hbeachbum714, Jul 17th, 2009 @ 3:43pm

    Ron Riley

    Isn't this the Ron Riley that was sued along with defamation expert Penny "Boo Hoo" Balou?

    "Disclaimer: The following information has simply been collected from other blogs and websites. If you have been threatened by Ronald J. Riley or his alias "Inventor Ed", please send all information to: ronaldjriley_complaints@activist.com

    9/6/08: "Dozier Sues College Dropout for Trademark Infringement"

    "The lawsuit alleges that Ronald J. Riley has "perpetrated one of the most successful business credential frauds

    ever committed upon the inventor and entrepreneur community." "Around 1990, Riley was an unemployed

    community college dropout living in a mobile home. Using the Internet, he developed an elaborate scheme that

    grew in sophistication over the years to portray himself as a renowned and successful inventor. He made money

    as a consultant, offering his “feigned expertise” to help inventors and entrepreneurs commercialize their ideas and

    creations." Richmond.com"

     

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

  39.  
    identicon
    Chris, Jul 25th, 2009 @ 1:14pm

    I feel its a crime to do such things.

     

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

  40.  
    icon
    RulerOfMars (profile), Nov 11th, 2010 @ 8:35am

    Any Moment

    There can be only one.

     

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


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