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 website (“the Advance system”, available at 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.

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Companies: digg, fark, reddit, slashdot, techcrunch

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

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jeff says:

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.

Mike Masnick (profile) says:

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.

Allen Harkleroad (profile) says:

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.

G Thompson (profile) says:

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!”

G Thompson (profile) says:

Re: 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

Joe Shaw (user link) says:

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]

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