by Mike Masnick

Patent Infringement Lawsuit As Publicity Stunt

from the sneaky,-sneaky dept

While we've been writing a lot about patents lately, certainly not every patent infringement lawsuit is that interesting. However, reading through the details surrounding a new lawsuit filed against Oakley and Motorola for their Bluetooth-enabled sunglasses, it becomes clear that something isn't exactly right. There are too many oddities in the lawsuit until you realize that, rather than actually being about patent infringement, this story really sounds like a marketing ploy by the (sort of) patent holder. The reason it's a "sort of" patent holder is because the guy's patent actually expired three years ago -- which is just one of the oddities associated with the case. He did try to petition the USPTO to let him maintain the patent, but he was denied. In response, the guy claims that since the USPTO still cashed the check he included, that means they really accepted his petition and the patent is valid. The patent holder also claimed that a decade ago Oakley sued his company for patent infringement, but Oakley dropped the case because he countersued. Just one problem: there's no record of a countersuit, and the guy later admitted he didn't actually countersue. So, to make this even more fun, Oakley is now threatening to ask for damages from his "false statements" about that lawsuit.

While this might just seem like a bizarre patent lawsuit (and there are some more bizarre things included in the article), some of it starts to make sense once you realize that the guy is about to try to launch his own music playing sunglasses that compete with Oakley's Thump MP3-playing sunglasses -- the same ones that barely sold at all. So, you might think he's trying to protect his (sort of) patent for his own product -- except that he's not suing Oakley over the Thump glasses, but over the Razrwire glasses that have a Bluetooth earpiece for your phone attached to the side. The Red Herring reporter asks the guy if he realizes he's opening himself up to a patent infringement claim from Oakley over their Thump patent, and he says they have no such patent -- which is false. They have a patent and they're suing BMW over some similar (not selling very well) glasses. In the end, though, the guy admits it's okay if he loses, because he still thinks he's going to sell a lot more of his glasses, which he's expecting to be much cheaper than Oakley's. And, suddenly, the whole thing becomes clear: how else would you get press for cheap knockoffs of MP3 playing sunglasses that don't sell very well? Who cares about whether or not there's actual patent infringement -- now the story has a hook for the press.

Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1. identicon
    patentman, Jan 6th, 2006 @ 4:56am

    No Subject Given

    Ok, I this guy is unscrupulous no doubt, but your have to admit he is marketing savvy if his true intention was merely to generate press for his product.

    That said, this obviously is not the purpose for which the patent system was designed. I don't think, however, that this type of activity is a result of some flaw in the Patent system. This could have happened under any branch of the law. The phrase, "There is no such thing as bad publicity" comes to mind.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. identicon
    Xanthir, Jan 6th, 2006 @ 6:23am

    Re: No Subject Given

    Yeah, that seems pretty obvious from the article. Nothing wrong with patents in this article, just a dirtbag who is willing to lie for some cheap publicity.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. identicon
    Brad Leonard, Jan 6th, 2006 @ 6:52am

    Where are the editors

    The second part of the problem is a rip and read mentality in the press. Rather than exercising editorial control after realizing this guy is using them as a marketing tool, they will blindly pass on whatever comes their way.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. identicon
    Joe Snuffy, Jan 6th, 2006 @ 8:23am

    Patents Patents Patents

    What is with all of these stories about patents lately? I don't think a day has gone by in the last cople weeks where Techdirt has not posted something about patents. Isn't there anything else worth talking about?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 6th, 2006 @ 9:03am

    No Subject Given

    And he wins because you post it here.

    Good sheeple, Good sheeple.

    It amazes me how gullible some people are.

    But then again...I clicked the link. Silly me.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 6th, 2006 @ 9:11am

    No Subject Given

    now THATS clever

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 6th, 2006 @ 9:12am

    Re: Patents Patents Patents

    someone wake up on the wrong side of the bed this morning? why should it bother you what TD writes about... you don't have to compulsively read every single article -- just the articles you think may be enjoyable to you. The internet is full of many things to read about, not just what is written here at td.

    "Change the channel if you don't like what is currently playing on your TV, don't force the broadcast company to remove programs just because you don't approve of them. that's just silly and small-minded."

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. identicon
    what tha, Jan 6th, 2006 @ 9:19am

    See you in court

    I have a patent on running stories on patents every day. Slow down there tech dirt.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 6th, 2006 @ 9:34am

    Re: No Subject Given

    When you deal in advertizing and marketing and business in general, what exactly defines unscrupulous?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10. identicon
    Joe Snuffy, Jan 6th, 2006 @ 10:32am

    Re: Patents Patents Patents

    I do not consider asking for a variety of topics to be "small minded". Using your TV analogy, what's the point of watching a "rerun" over and over. After you've seen a a couple of times, I gets a little old.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11. identicon
    Andrew Strasser, Jan 6th, 2006 @ 11:02am

    Can't blame em.

    Hey if he had the first part and they didn't let him keep it then why should Oakley be allowed to patent any other part of the same type of thing. Though yeah you can't blame a person for making publicity about things especially if he stands to make any profit whatsoever or maybe payoff debt. He's doing what any smaller business owner has to in this day and age. Hummer grills still look like Jeep's and what you invent isn't normally yours anymore.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12. icon
    jeff (profile), Jan 8th, 2006 @ 12:26am

    Re: Can't blame em.

    you can blame someone for creating publicity when they're wasting government time and money. the guy should be put in jail for being such a blatant ass, maybe it'd help calm down some of the copyright craze that's going on.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

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