Patent Infringement Lawsuit As Publicity Stunt
from the sneaky,-sneaky dept
While we’ve been writing a lot about patents lately, certainly not every patent infringement lawsuit is that interesting. However, reading through the details surrounding a new lawsuit filed against Oakley and Motorola for their Bluetooth-enabled sunglasses, it becomes clear that something isn’t exactly right. There are too many oddities in the lawsuit until you realize that, rather than actually being about patent infringement, this story really sounds like a marketing ploy by the (sort of) patent holder. The reason it’s a “sort of” patent holder is because the guy’s patent actually expired three years ago — which is just one of the oddities associated with the case. He did try to petition the USPTO to let him maintain the patent, but he was denied. In response, the guy claims that since the USPTO still cashed the check he included, that means they really accepted his petition and the patent is valid. The patent holder also claimed that a decade ago Oakley sued his company for patent infringement, but Oakley dropped the case because he countersued. Just one problem: there’s no record of a countersuit, and the guy later admitted he didn’t actually countersue. So, to make this even more fun, Oakley is now threatening to ask for damages from his “false statements” about that lawsuit.
While this might just seem like a bizarre patent lawsuit (and there are some more bizarre things included in the article), some of it starts to make sense once you realize that the guy is about to try to launch his own music playing sunglasses that compete with Oakley’s Thump MP3-playing sunglasses — the same ones that barely sold at all. So, you might think he’s trying to protect his (sort of) patent for his own product — except that he’s not suing Oakley over the Thump glasses, but over the Razrwire glasses that have a Bluetooth earpiece for your phone attached to the side. The Red Herring reporter asks the guy if he realizes he’s opening himself up to a patent infringement claim from Oakley over their Thump patent, and he says they have no such patent — which is false. They have a patent and they’re suing BMW over some similar (not selling very well) glasses. In the end, though, the guy admits it’s okay if he loses, because he still thinks he’s going to sell a lot more of his glasses, which he’s expecting to be much cheaper than Oakley’s. And, suddenly, the whole thing becomes clear: how else would you get press for cheap knockoffs of MP3 playing sunglasses that don’t sell very well? Who cares about whether or not there’s actual patent infringement — now the story has a hook for the press.