If You're Going To Sue For Patent Infringement, It Helps To Say What Actually Infringes

from the pro-tip dept

Last year, we wrote about a guy, Greg Bender, who holds a patent (5,103,188) on a "buffered transconductance amplifier," that he's decided is infringed upon by pretty much any electronics device. He filed a ton of lawsuits claiming that his patent was infringed on by makers of computers, cell phones, hard drives, DVD players, HDTVs and MRI machines. However, it appears he failed when it came to providing specifics. Joe Mullin points to the news that Bender's lawsuit against Motorola has been dismissed for failing to state a claim. Specifically, the lawsuit was so vague and general that it wasn't clear what he was suing over. In the lawsuit, Bender claimed the following were infringing:
products [including], without limitation, cell phones, computers, network drivers, high definition television sets, ultrasound machines, MRI machines, lab equipment, arbitrary waveform generators, audio amplifiers, video amplifiers, hard disc drives, ADC/DAC converters, DVD-RW players, DSL modems, CCD cameras, satellite communication technology, and other products where high performance, high speed analog circuits are used, and/or components thereof.
With such a broad list, the court noted that no one had any idea what was actually infringing:
Nowhere in the Amended Complaint does Plaintiff identify, with the requisite level of factual detail, the particular product or line of products, that allegedly infringe the '188 Patent. Instead, Plaintiff merely claims that the infringing "products include, without limitation, cell phones, computers . . . and other products where high performance, high speed analog circuits are used, and/or components thereof." [P]laintiff has done nothing more than recite a laundry list of electronic devices. These cursory allegations are insufficient to give the Defendant fair notice of the claims being alleged against it.


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  1.  
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    Steven (profile), Mar 8th, 2010 @ 9:12am

    Specific?

    Why would you need to be specific in a lawsuit if you don't need to be specific in a patent?

    On a side note - ADC/DAC converters. I hate it when people use the acronym and then use the last word from the acronym.

    NIC card, DVD disk, LCD display... It immediately makes me think the person has no idea what their talking about.

     

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  2.  
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    Brian G., Mar 8th, 2010 @ 9:20am

    Re: Specific?

    I've heard that complaint so many times, and naively, in a vacuum, it makes sense, but we live in a world with so many acronyms and so little clarity of communication, just think of trying to ALWAYS repeat the last letter's word as a kind of checksum on the data compressed in the acronym, and/or so the sentence reads OK even if someone is unfamiliar with acronym...

     

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  3.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 8th, 2010 @ 9:28am

    Rather, the first time you use it, spell out the entire thing and if you will be using it multiple times thereafter, include the acronym in parenthesis. For instance, my buffered transconductance amplifier (BTA) is a hoax, allowing me to sue people for including the fictitious BTA in any product I feel has money. The fact that a BTA is nonexistent or meaningless should bamboozle the judges who are notorious for being stupid and now knowing what things mean.

     

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  4.  
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    Richard (profile), Mar 8th, 2010 @ 9:29am

    Re: Specific?

    NIC card, DVD disk, LCD display...

    Its called PINS syndrome (PIN Number Syndrome....Syndrome) :}

     

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  5.  
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    JerryAtrick (profile), Mar 8th, 2010 @ 9:29am

    anyone know?

    What are the legalities regarding the movie picture association trying to convince the FCC to allow them to release first run movies directly to the consumer instead of releasing the material to theaters? Is that even legal?

     

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  6.  
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    A Dan (profile), Mar 8th, 2010 @ 9:34am

    Re: Re: Specific?

    Your point is especially true for NIC, which can stand for either Network Interface Controller or Card. As in, from Wikipedia, "The most common NIC is the network interface card."

     

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  7.  
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    A Dan (profile), Mar 8th, 2010 @ 9:35am

    Re: anyone know?

    Why do you keep posting this? It doesn't make sense, and it's way offtopic.

     

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  8.  
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    Richard (profile), Mar 8th, 2010 @ 9:37am

    Microsoft tactics

    It's the same tactics Microsoft are trying on against Linux.

    Don't, under any circumstances, come clean about exactly what it is you're suing over because then it will be easy for the defendant to find prior art etc.

     

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  9.  
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    Ima Fish (profile), Mar 8th, 2010 @ 9:46am

    A buffered transconductance amplifier? My guess is that it would infringe upon the work of the late Dr. Emmett Brown.

     

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  10.  
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    David Johnson (profile), Mar 8th, 2010 @ 10:03am

    Re:

    or would it be future?

     

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  11.  
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    Ima Fish (profile), Mar 8th, 2010 @ 10:19am

    Re: Re:

    Good point!

     

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  12.  
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    The Groove Tiger (profile), Mar 8th, 2010 @ 10:28am

    Sounds too me like he holds the patent for his shiny metal ass, and the procedure on how to bite it.

     

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  13.  
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    Jon B., Mar 8th, 2010 @ 10:29am

    Re: Microsoft tactics

    MS doesn't sue. They just issue veiled threats to scare other companies away from using Linux. The reason they don't sue is because they can't state a specific thing, but then enter a 'we promise not to sue' agreement with Sun.

     

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  14.  
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    Comboman, Mar 8th, 2010 @ 10:57am

    Re: Re: Specific?

    ROTFL laughing.

     

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  15.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 8th, 2010 @ 11:11am

    Re: Specific?

    "Why would you need to be specific in a lawsuit if you don't need to be specific in a patent?"

    Perhaps you would not need to be specific in a lawsuit if you did not need to be specific in a patent. However, you need to disclose an invention to the level of detail that permits someone else to practice the invention, and your lawsuit has to be sufficiently specific that the nature of the suit can be defended.

     

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  16.  
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    Dan, Mar 8th, 2010 @ 12:31pm

    Re: Re: Specific?

    You can take that one all the way to the ATM Machine.

     

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  17.  
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    Avatar28 (profile), Mar 8th, 2010 @ 4:15pm

    maybe obvious?

    Call me crazy, but is seems to me that if it is something that so very many varied and disparate devices with no real relationship to each other that whatever the patent is for is either A) so exceedingly obvious that every electronic device on the planet makes use of it or B) something that is inherently part of what makes an integrated circuit possible and, as such, probably goes back to the earliest days of the device and should no longer be covered by patent protection (sort of like how all vertebrates have certain features in common because we all go back to a common ancestor).

     

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  18.  
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    Willton, Mar 8th, 2010 @ 5:31pm

    Re: maybe obvious?

    Call me crazy,

    You're crazy. The merits of this particular patent's claimed invention aside, what you fail to notice is the filing date of the patent in question, which is in 1989. What may be commonplace now may not have been commonplace or obvious back in the late 80's or early 90's. It is not fair to judge the obviousness of a claimed invention by what happens after the fact.

     

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  19.  
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    angry dude, Mar 8th, 2010 @ 5:51pm

    shut up, stupid techdirt punks

    patent looks very solid to me (but it's not my field)
    It's also very old and already expired

    apparently last minute attempt by inventor to collect any money from infringers

    well, better late than never...

     

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  20.  
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    enrolled agent exam (profile), Mar 8th, 2010 @ 5:56pm

    His other invention

    Careful, this guy also invented air. We should all do our best not to infringe.

     

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  21.  
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    angry dude, Mar 8th, 2010 @ 6:02pm

    idiocracy

    Idiocracy - the rule of the stupid

    That;s what happened to this shitty blog and will soon happen to this entire country

    Eat your nuggets and watch the movie, punks

     

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  22.  
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    ethorad (profile), Mar 9th, 2010 @ 5:04am

    Re: Re: Specific?

    Or RAS syndrome (Redundant Acronym Syndrome syndrome)

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RAS_syndrome

     

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  23.  
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    jsf (profile), Mar 9th, 2010 @ 6:39am

    Looking at the patent, and having a small knowledge of the subject the lawsuits would need to target analog integrated circuits, not the end products they go into. The patent really covers pretty low level circuit design, not something like an entire MRI system.

     

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  24.  
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    Gene Cavanaughg, Mar 9th, 2010 @ 4:48pm

    Patent suits without specificity

    Excellent article! The problem with Joe Bender is that he doesn't understand how this scam works (common in large entity patenting). You write the patent so that only an "expert" can understand it (all the time claiming that you are meeting the "clear and concise" requirements of the patent law). Now when you vaguely allege something, if you are careful, you will have to hire "experts" at thousands per hour, for hundreds of hours. With care, you don't even need an invention; just a patent.
    That's why I do small entity patenting - you have to have an invention, and it will be described so clearly that "experts" are not needed - so, if you do have to go to court, and hopefully that won't happen with so much clarity,
    you will be out a few thousand - and if I did MY job right, you will win (I don't help people "work" the system).

     

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  25.  
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    me262, May 23rd, 2010 @ 11:25pm

    Microsoft has done the same thing.

    Microsoft has used this tactic before, a few years ago. Claiming that Linux and a number of other open source applications infringe on some 247 copyrights, but they never specified what these are, and given that Microsoft holds so many, it's like looking for a needle in a haystack.
    What MS was successful in doing, was to generate enough FUD (Fear, Uncertainty, Doubt) that it scared a number of companies to sign agreements with them (LG, and others) so if the infringements ever came to court (which it never will), they would not be affected.
    These scare tactics are despicable.

     

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