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.