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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Companies: motorola

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

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Steven (profile) says:


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.

Brian G. says:

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…

Anonymous Coward says:

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.

Anonymous Coward says:

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.

Avatar28 (profile) says:

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).

Willton says:

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.

Gene Cavanaughg (profile) says:

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).

me262 says:

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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