EFF Wins Over Patent Troll Trying To Silence EFF Calling Its Patent Stupid
from the protected-speech-ftw dept
Earlier this year we wrote about the EFF going to court in California to protect it against an Australian patent troll, GEMSA, who objected to EFF naming a GEMSA patent one of EFF’s “Stupid Patents of the Month.” Apparently GEMSA sued in Australia, didn’t properly serve EFF, and then got an injunction in Australia, which it threatened to enforce in California. EFF went to court using the all important SPEECH Act, which bars foreign judgments from being enforced in the US if they are in conflict with the First Amendment.
GEMSA, perhaps not surprisingly, declined to show up in the California court, leading EFF to move for default. A magistrate judge initially recommended against this, arguing that the court did not have personal jurisdiction over GEMSA. EFF asked the court to try again, and in a extraordinarily detailed and careful ruling, Judge Jon Tigar rejects the magistrate’s recommendation and gives EFF the default judgment it sought. We’ve complained in the past that often the problem with default judgments is that courts are only too willing to just grant them if one party declines to show up for the case. This is not one of those situations. Tigar goes out of his way to explore pretty much every possible argument that GEMSA might have for why the court shouldn’t have jurisdiction, for why the SPEECH Act should not apply and for why EFF’s post may have been defamatory. And one by one by one, he points out why GEMSA is wrong and EFF is right. I won’t repeat all the reasoning here, in part because there are so many different elements, though it’s a fun and quick read in the filing.
Most importantly, after analyzing everything EFF put in the post, the court concludes: “In short, not one of the alleged defamatory statements would be defamatory under California law. EFF would not have been found liable for defamation under U.S. and California law.” Combine that with the court recognizing that it has personal jurisdiction over GEMSA (GEMSA hurt its case here by continuing to appear in California courts in some of its patent lawsuits while ignoring this case…) and deciding that all of the elements of the SPEECH Act applies, and EFF prevails. And thus, it’s protected speech to call GEMSA’s patents stupid, and GEMSA can’t censor EFF saying so here in California.