Patent Holder Sues Basically Anyone Who Offers Recipes Or 'Meal Planning' Online
from the damn dept
THREsq alerted us to the news of a company named DietGoal, which appears to not exist for any reason other than to sue over patents, and which has sued the TV network Bravo for creating a recipe finder website. The claim is that it violates US Patent 6,585,516 for a “method and system for computerized visual behavior analysis, training, and planning.” The patent basically seems to describe an online recipe database in which “the user can use the Picture Menus to choose meals for a particular time period to correspond to a customized eating plan.”
I started to look further into the lawsuit, and I realized that Bravo was not the only target of DietGoal. Not by a long shot. Last September, right before the new patent law went into effect making it difficult to bundle defendants, DietGoal sued a ton of sites — mainly focused on restaurants (including, but not limited to, Arby’s, Chick-fil-A, Dairy Queen, Dunkin’ Donuts, Jack in the Box, McDonald’s, Panda Express, Taco Bell, Sonic, Wendy’s, Burger King, Whole Foods, Tim Hortons, Dominos and Starbucks) as well as a few non-restaurants, including Weight Watchers, Google, IAC and Hearst Communications. If you look at the docket on that one, there are a ton of “dismissals” by DietGoal, which likely means that it was successful in getting the companies to pay up. Others do appear to be fighting it and hitting back with counterclaims and questioning the validity of the patent. Some, like Dominos and Wegmans also sought to break apart the case and make DietGoal face each defendant individually in different cases. That case has also bounced around among a few different judges already.
On April 3rd, DietGoals filed an amended complaint in that original case, attempting to add in a huge list of new defendants — including Bravo and a bunch of others (many of whom we’ll discuss in a bit). On May 24th, the magistrate judge denied DietGoal’s motion to file that third amended complaint with all those other parties.
That brings us up to this week, in which DietGoal filed a bunch of lawsuits against a variety of companies (those it had tried to lump into this lawsuit) — with each one being sued individually. So… yes, there’s the lawsuit against Bravo, but also suits against AllRecipes.com, CalorieKing, ConAgra (for having a product nutrition search engine on its site — no, I’m not kidding, check the complaint), General Mills, Nestle, Nutrisystem, Food.com, SparkPeople, Time, Inc. (for RealSimple.com), WebMD and some others as well.
Basically, it looks as though the DietGoal is operating under the premise that anyone who offers recipes online should have to pay it some money. Of course, all of this should make you wonder: was a patent really needed for the sake of encouraging companies to put databases of recipes online?