East Texas Jury Actually Invalidates One Of EFF's 10 Worst Patents, Held By Infamous Patent Hoarder

from the track-record-not-so-hot dept

We’ve been following the EFF’s patent busting efforts for its list of the 10 worst patents, and it looks like an East Texas jury may have at least partially invalidated one of the patents, 6,411,947, which describes a method for automatically routing emails. As the EFF noted, this patent appeared to cover “basic natural language processing techniques taught in introductory computer science courses.”

Things took a more interesting turn when the guy holding the patent, Erich Spangenberg and his hoarding company, Polaris IP, decided to sue Google, Yahoo, Amazon, AOL, IAC and Borders for daring to automate email responses without first paying him. If Spangenberg/Polaris sound familiar, it’s because he’s become one of the more prolific patent hoarders out there lately, and a couple years ago had to pay out $4 million to Daimler, after he apparently used various shell companies to move some patents around and sue Daimler multiple times over the same patent, even though an earlier settlement had him promising not to assert that patent against the company again. Spangenberg also believes in suing first before contacting a company, and always suing in East Texas, because the juries there like to hand out giant awards.

Spangenberg’s legal strategy in this particular lawsuit was also quite questionable, as he demanded that Google hand over information concerning its lobbying efforts on patent reform. What that had to do with whether or not Google infringed on this particular patent was never clearly explained.

Either way, Spangenberg’s faith in East Texas juries may have been misplaced this time around:

The jury found three of the patent’s claims invalid based on the public use bar, obviousness, and for lacking written description. The jury also found that neither Google nor Yahoo! infringed those claims. Finally, the jury found the entire patent invalid due to improper inventorship.

Separately, per Google’s request, the USPTO has already been re-examining the patent. The scorecard on this list of patents is increasingly tilting in the EFF’s favor, but it’s a statement of how awful the patent system is to note how long this has taken. The EFF announced its patent busting project in 2004. And while the process is on-going to invalidate many of them, it’s taking quite a long time — all the while allowing patent holders to create frivolous lawsuits that waste money that could be spent on actual innovation.

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Companies: eff, google, polaris, yahoo

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Comments on “East Texas Jury Actually Invalidates One Of EFF's 10 Worst Patents, Held By Infamous Patent Hoarder”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Junk Patent Problem

Due to the poor quality of patents these days, caused by widespread abuse of the patent system, Congress should repeal the provision of the law which makes patent infringement illegal. Overnight, that would put patent trolls out of business. The US justice system would no longer have to waste time on patent matters, which would help with their backlog. The USPTO would no longer be flooded with junk patents.

Patent licensing revenue would not actually fall to zero, patent licensing would become a method of hiring the inventors to help a company use a patent. That would still work just fine for novel and non-obvious patents. Of course, all the others would be right out of luck, which is as it should be. The patent system would finally start doing what it is supposed to do, namely “To promote the Progress …”.

PrometheeFeu (profile) says:

I have been thinking: Marshall, Texas where many of the worst patent lawsuits are filed has something like 27k people in it. Why won’t let’s say Google (but probably a group of companies that have good reasons to dislike patents) just blow something like 5-10 mil on a propaganda campaign in that area and just saturate the airwaves until the juries in that town become so anti-patent that they automatically reject all patent lawsuits. And just keep doing that when a new Marshall, Texas pops up until you’ve effectively convinced most patent supporters that it’s a bad idea…

Ccomp5950 (profile) says:

Re: Re:

I own a small business down here in Marshall. A lot of the local economy down here is based around the “patent tourism”. Marshall is an Old Money town, and a lot of the old money around here have businesses that rely on those patent tourists. You will find some resistance from local leadership to that sort of change.

Interesting concept, just a bit more moving parts than that.

Hephaestus (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

“A lot of the local economy down here is based around the “patent tourism”.”

Dude just that one line makes me want to see your town nuked into oblivion. Also it shows that your town is biased in favor of the patent trolls. This is probably in the back of jurors minds as they participate in patent cases. Which biases them in the favor of the patent trolls. I mean if the trolls loose the town looses money.

Buchy says:

You failed to mention that Eric Goldman is the biggest cock sucker in Silicon Valley. Eric Schmidt forgets that Eric Goldman is uglier than a wild boar when he has his cock lodged between Goldman’s tongue and upper incisors. I give Eric Goldman and Eric Schmidt a lot of credit for keeping their affair secret, at least until now! You boys are so cute, didn’t you think someone would see the way you look at each other and play footsie at meetings? It’s pretty gross that you are both sodomists but to each his own.

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