Kickstarter Refuses To Settle Or Be Silenced Over Ridiculous 'Teledildonics' Patent Lawsuit

from the virtually-fucking-patent-trolls dept

Back in 2010, we wrote about the ridiculous patent thicket in “teledildonics” — better known as internet-connected sex toys. A few different companies had been claiming patents on teledildonics and some patent lawsuits had broken out over it. One of the patents we covered, US Patent 6,368,268, was held at the time by New Frontier Technologies, for a “method and device for interactive virtual control of sexual aids using digital computer networks.”

Earlier this year, however, a company named TZU popped up with that same patent and sued a bunch of companies, who offered various internet-connected sex toys. But, it also sued Kickstarter, because one of the products it was suing, the “Frebble” (a device for virtual long-distance “hand holding”) had launched via a Kickstarter campaign. Blaming Kickstarter for that was a long shot, and Kickstarter made things tougher for TZU by actually fighting back.

Oh, and by refusing to walk away and be silent when offered the chance.

As Joe Mullin at Ars Technica writes, TZU ended up walking away entirely after Kickstarter refused to sign a non-disclosure agreement to hide a $0 “settlement.”

Kickstarter refused to pay a “nuisance” settlement demand, preferring instead to litigate the case on principle. On the same day Kickstarter was going to file its response to the lawsuit, TZU offered a “walkaway” settlement in which Kickstarter would pay it nothing, as long as it signed a confidentiality agreement. Again, Kickstarter refused.

“This is a standard patent troll suit, the kind that, unfortunately, we have faced in the past,” said Kickstarter general counsel Michal Rosenn in an interview with Ars. “We?re fortunate to be in a position where we can afford to take these suits to court.”

Once TZU and its lawyers at the Southern California-based Cotman IP group realized Kickstarter fully intended to fight it out in court, it dropped the lawsuit. The case has been dismissed with prejudice, meaning it can’t be re-filed.

Kudos to Rosenn and Kickstarter for standing up against this patent troll, and for using the Drew Curtis playbook, which includes fighting back, making it clear you’d rather spend money on lawyers than give a penny to the troll and, most importantly, refusing to agree to any sort of non-disclosure agreement when the troll tries to run away. This information needs to be public and it’s nice to see Kickstarter take a stand. It would have been easy for the company to just sign the NDA and walk away, but then TZU could pretend that it had “won” a settlement from the company. It looks like NewEgg’s “Don’t Settle With Patent Trolls” concept is catching on.

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Companies: kickstarter, tzu

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Comments on “Kickstarter Refuses To Settle Or Be Silenced Over Ridiculous 'Teledildonics' Patent Lawsuit”

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JoeCool (profile) says:

Even when you win, you lose

making it clear you’d rather spend money on lawyers than give a penny to the troll

That’s the whole point behind patent trolls – making work for lawyers where NONE should exist in the first place. The number one problem in the US today: too many damn lawyers inventing work for themselves, usually at the expense of others. They aren’t a rising sea that lifts all boats, they’re a bilge pump in your septic tank with the hose going to your living room window. For a price, they’ll turn off the pump, and even if they turn it off for nothing, you’re still stuck paying to clean up the crap.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Even when you win, you lose

Except, the lawyers on the patent troll side got nothing, which is a win. Indeed, the patent troll still had to pay their attorneys while getting nothing in exchange (unless the attorneys were working on retainer – but maybe they will learn something when enough entities fight the trolls).

As for the respondent in this case, likely they paid a small amount to their attorneys to write a couple of letters. Even better, if the attorney(s) were on staff, they may have spent zero additional money to an attorney. All together, the minimal amount spent by Kickstarter was worth keeping this suit from turning into a real money maker for someone.

GEMont (profile) says:

Re: And when the scam fails, the crooks walk away free. Why?

From the Wikipedia:

Extortion (also called shakedown, outwrestling, and exaction) is a criminal offense of obtaining money, property, or services from a person, entity, or institution, through coercion. It is sometimes euphemistically referred to as a “protection racket” since the racketeers often phrase their demands as payment for “protection” from (real or hypothetical) threats from unspecified other parties. Extortion is commonly practiced by organized crime groups. The actual obtainment of money or property is not required to commit the offense. Making a threat of violence which refers to a requirement of a payment of money or property to halt future violence is sufficient to commit the offense. Exaction refers not only to extortion or the unlawful demanding and obtaining of something through force,[1] but additionally, in its formal definition, means the infliction of something such as pain and suffering or making somebody endure something unpleasant.[2]

Extortion is distinguished from robbery. In robbery, whether armed or not, the offender takes property from the victim by the immediate use of force or fear that force will be immediately used (as in the classic line, “Your money or your life.”) Extortion, which is not limited to the taking of property, involves the verbal or written instillation of fear that something will happen to the victim if they do not comply with the extortionist’s will. Another key distinction is that extortion always involves a verbal or written threat, whereas robbery does not. In United States federal law, extortion can be committed with or without the use of force and with or without the use of a weapon.

In blackmail, which always involves extortion, the extortionist threatens to reveal information about a victim or their family members that is potentially embarrassing, socially damaging, or incriminating unless a demand for money, property, or services is met.

The term extortion is often used metaphorically to refer to usury or to price-gouging, though neither is legally considered extortion. It is also often used loosely to refer to everyday situations where one person feels indebted against their will, to another, in order to receive an essential service or avoid legal consequences.

Neither extortion nor blackmail requires a threat of a criminal act, such as violence, merely a threat used to elicit actions, money, or property from the object of the extortion. Such threats include the filing of reports (true or not) of criminal behavior to the police, revelation of damaging facts (such as pictures of the object of the extortion in a compromising position), etc..


So again, why is this activity NOT considered extortion?
Why are the “authorities” not arresting and charging these trolls?

Is it the simple fact that copyright laws have become so important to Hollywood, and thus to the Federal Governments, that law enforcement looks the other way, as long as the victims are considered to possibly be infringers??

Did the Fed secretly declare a new War On – a War On Infringers, such that, like with druggies or terrorists, infringers have no rights under American law due to their secret new status as “the adversary”, under the War-Time Constitution?

PaulT (profile) says:

“We’re fortunate to be in a position where we can afford to take these suits to court.”

…and there you have the real reason why these things happen. When a system’s in place that makes it easier for innocent people to be extorted than it is to defend themselves, not only is something clearly wrong, but there’s no deterrent to doing this.

Kudos to Kickstarter for fighting back, but essentially all this means is that the next troll won’t target Kickstarter specifically. It does nothing to protect others who may not be as fortunate to be able to defend themselves.

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