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Reddit, Digg, Fark, Slashdot, TechCrunch & Others Sued Over Ridiculous 'Online Press Release' Patent

from the like-that-will-work dept

Last summer, you may recall, we wrote about the ridiculous situation of a company called "Gooseberry Natural Resources LLC," which held a ridiculous broad patent (6,370,535) that it claimed covered the basic concept of generating a press release online. The company had sued a bunch of (usually small) online press release services -- some of whom were really struggling to fight the lawsuit. And, to make matters worse, it was not clear who really owned the patent, as there appeared to be a series of shell companies to hide the actual patent holder.

Apparently whoever is behind Gooseberry got tired of simply trying to demand cash from mom-and-pop press release services, and has now decided to sue a bunch of online services, Digg, Reddit, Fark, TechCrunch, and others. What do any of those companies have to do with generating press releases online? You've got me. Of course, some of those sites are pretty good at teaming up and doing good deeds. So, perhaps the Reddit crew might be able to figure out who really holds this patent?

The whole thing looks pretty ridiculous. For example, this is the section on how it claims Reddit violates the patent:
Plaintiff is informed and believes that Advance owns, operates, advertises, controls, sells, and otherwise provides hardware, software and websites for "news and press release services" including via the reddit.com website ("the Advance system", available at www.reddit.com). Upon information and belief, Advance has infringed and continues to infringe one or more claims of the '535 patent by making, using, providing, offering to sell, and selling (directly or through intermediaries), in this district and elsewhere in the United States, systems and methods for entering and providing structured news and press releases. More particularly, Plaintiff is informed and believes that Advance has and/or require and/or directs users to access and/or interact with a system that receives and stores separately specified portions of a new or press release and that assembles a news or press release in a predetermined format.
This is basically the same basic language used against all the sites sued. It's basically a ridiculous attack on lots of well-known tech blogs and news aggregator sites, claiming they somehow infringe on this ridiculous patent. I find it especially amusing that they've included Slashdot in this attack, seeing as Slashdot's system (which really hasn't changed that much over the years) predates the patent filing by a few years. Seems like the prior art on this one is likely to be pretty strong. Of course, fighting a patent infringement lawsuit, no matter how bogus, can be quite expensive. Hopefully these sites are willing to team up and pool resources. Thankfully, most of the sites involved are owned by much larger companies who can (and hopefully will) fight this.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
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    Trails (profile), Jan 13th, 2011 @ 8:18am

    Well, yeah, it's stupid, but...

    If it takes Fark offline, it can't be all bad, can it?

     

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

  2.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 13th, 2011 @ 8:21am

    Re: Well, yeah, it's stupid, but...

    Better yet: Do RJR's websites have press releases?

     

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

  3.  
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    Geek Hillbilly, Jan 13th, 2011 @ 8:22am

    Patent trolls seldom win at this.Wait and see.

     

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

  4.  
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    ChurchHatesTucker (profile), Jan 13th, 2011 @ 9:01am

    Oh lords

    Nice one, Jack Choules, Primary Examiner. Hope you're proud.

     

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

  5.  
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    jeff, Jan 13th, 2011 @ 10:19am

    uspto reexamination cheaper than litigation

    Of course, fighting a patent infringement lawsuit, no matter how bogus, can be quite expensive.

    true enough, but anyone can request that a patent be reexamined by the patent office. This choice is also not cheap, but would typically be far less costly than full blown litigation. For example, the USPTO charges roughly 2500 and a patent lawyer would likely charge anywhere from 1500 to 7000 to conduct an invalidity search and to prepare the actual reexam request depending on the complexity of the technology involved and the difficulty in conducing the prior art search. Compared to potentially tens if not hundreds of thousands of dollars for litigation, this is a pretty good deal.

    the 2007 KSR decision from the supreme court changed everything. It is now far easier to argue that a patent is invalid as obvious. Any patent granted prior to the KSR decision is certainly vulnerable to being severely limited, if not invalidated outright, in a reexamination proceeding.

     

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

  6.  
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    The Mighty Buzzard (profile), Jan 13th, 2011 @ 10:20am

    Re: Oh lords

    See, it would be really nice if patent examiners had to put their mailing address on all approved patents. That way we could all send them a nice thank-you dog turd when they approve something like this.

     

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

  7.  
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    Mike Masnick (profile), Jan 13th, 2011 @ 10:42am

    Re: uspto reexamination cheaper than litigation

    true enough, but anyone can request that a patent be reexamined by the patent office. This choice is also not cheap, but would typically be far less costly than full blown litigation.

    True, but you also have to hope that the court will delay any trial until after a re-exam. They will do that sometimes, but not always.

     

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

  8.  
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    Allen Harkleroad (profile), Jan 13th, 2011 @ 11:36am

    Patents Office In General

    it amazes me that these sorts of patent are ever approved. I think it must take a special kind of moron to be a patent examiner, seriously. Prior art on press releases would go back to the early days of PR and online back into the early 90's at least. I hope the defendants pool their resources and invalidate the patent and then file for extreme damages and put the plaintiff out of business or at least dent his wallet so much that he avoids future frivolous litigation.

     

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

  9.  
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    ChurchHatesTucker (profile), Jan 13th, 2011 @ 11:37am

    Re: Re: Oh lords

    I'm hoping that simple internet shaming will do the trick.

     

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

  10.  
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    TechnoMage (profile), Jan 13th, 2011 @ 11:43am

    From the 'Update' on TechCrunch

    [Update: A commenter points out that the plaintiff spelled their own name incorrectly at the top of the complaint.]

    ... seriously... just seriously...

     

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

  11.  
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    a13coach (profile), Jan 13th, 2011 @ 11:58am

    So is this Techdirt report categorized as a press release? Is Techdirt going to get a summons? :)

     

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

  12.  
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    Nick Dynice (profile), Jan 13th, 2011 @ 12:38pm

    The Reddit community is going to take a shitstorm on these guys. Should be fun.

     

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

  13.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 13th, 2011 @ 12:59pm

    Quick! Somebody tell Gooseberry to add 4chan to their list!

     

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

  14.  
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    Power Tripper, Jan 13th, 2011 @ 1:23pm

    Slashdot has prior art on this all day, every day.

    Gooseberry is based in Plano Texas.

    Anyone want to join me in storming their business in protest?

     

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

  15.  
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    RH, Jan 13th, 2011 @ 2:36pm

    They are picking a fight with the entire internet. This will not end well for them.

     

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

  16.  
    identicon
    Guest, Jan 13th, 2011 @ 6:39pm

    patent ownership

    According to the USPTO's public pair assignment history, the most recent assignee of the patent is KOLOMOKI MOUNDS LLC of Wilmington, Delaware. The patent was assigned to them by NEWGEMS LLC on June 16, 2010.

    The listed correspondent is John S. Hilten of 1750 Tysons Boulevard, Suite 1800, Mclean, VA 22102.

     

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

  17.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 13th, 2011 @ 6:49pm

    Plaintiff is informed and believes that ... HERP DERP DURR

     

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

  18.  
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    G Thompson (profile), Jan 13th, 2011 @ 8:43pm

    What the hell?

    This patent was asked for in 1999 and for YEARS beforehand via Fidonet, FidoNews, AlterNet, etc Press releases were happening all over the world via pre-internet systems which under the patent talked about are classified as online services.

    The prior Art for this method and obviousness is HUGE

    And if you read the patent it would also somehow exclude email as a way of sending press releases.

    "The Stupid...it burns!"

     

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

  19.  
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    LeBazz (profile), Jan 14th, 2011 @ 7:48am

    Re:

    You just blew my mind mentioning FidoNet !!! Goes waaaaay back indeed !! I wonder how old you have to be to remember FidoNet !!

     

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

  20.  
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    G Thompson (profile), Jan 14th, 2011 @ 8:01pm

    Re: Re:

    old enough to remember
    * what 8,n,1 means
    * that 1200/75bps was so freakin fast
    * Telix was awesome
    * LTUAE (Life The Universe & Everything) was the usenet forum where all the cool people were ;)
    * Sysops were like gods! [I was one at one time]
    * zmodem, xmodem, and ymodem were not types of modems

    Oh and probably like me between 40 and 50, and old enough to be totally insane. Muwahahahaha

     

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

  21.  
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    CJ, Jan 16th, 2011 @ 10:19pm

    Another case of the Rambus business model...

    1. Patent a stupidly broad range of vague concepts laughingly referred to as I.P.
    2. Fail to use those patents to attain widespread commercial success.
    3. Wait until someone else uses the same concepts to achieve widespread commercial success.
    4. ????
    5. PROFIT!

     

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

  22.  
    identicon
    JohnS, Feb 15th, 2011 @ 3:56pm

    Re: Well, yeah, it's stupid, but...

    Getting you offline would offer a significantly larger benefit to the online world it seems.

     

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

  23.  
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    federica, Feb 15th, 2011 @ 11:15pm

    I'll bet it's a jew doing this.

     

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

  24.  
    identicon
    Revanche, Feb 16th, 2011 @ 4:32am

    Re: Well, yeah, it's stupid, but...

    What I find funny about this is that Trails is a Farker. Good on you mate; good use of irony.

     

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

  25.  
    identicon
    Bill Stewart, Feb 16th, 2011 @ 11:56am

    Clarinet News on Usenet may be prior art also?

    Brad Templeton's Clarinet News Service on Usenet was around back in the 80s, and Usenet was connected to the Internet as well as to UUCP during some of that time.

     

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

  26.  
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    themillertest, Feb 17th, 2011 @ 10:08am

    Re: Well, yeah, it's stupid, but...

    What is your problem with Fark? Don't just rip something without giving a more detailed explanation. It makes *you* look stupid.

     

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

  27.  
    identicon
    Joe Shaw, Aug 11th, 2011 @ 2:13pm

    This reminds me...

    This reminds me of a time in the music industry when there was a big joke going around that AC/DC was going to sue some other band over rights to use the G chord.

    So Many songs use the G chord it's ludicrous to think that anyone could patent one of the chords.

    [This was also a musical slam indicating that almost all of AC/DC's songs used this chord]

     

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


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