Netflix Patent Antitrust Case Thrown Out, Judge Orders Lawyers To Alert The Press

from the legal-oddities dept

Back in May we told you about a class action lawsuit that was being filed against Netflix, claiming that the company violated antitrust law by fraudulently obtaining the patents it was using to sue Blockbuster. This seemed like a really odd argument, and one unlikely to succeed. By definition, patents are monopoly rights which are granted by the government -- so it's difficult to see how they can violate antitrust law. Also, as we noted when the original suit was filed, these types of class action lawsuits rarely do much good (though, they do tend to make lawyers a lot wealthier). A little over a month after this lawsuit was filed, Netflix and Blockbuster decided to settle their patent dispute, at which point we wondered what would happen to the antitrust class action. Now we know. It's about to be dismissed. However, the judge apparently is worried that due to the original press coverage of the case (from folks like yours truly), potential members of the class may have held back filing other actions against Netflix -- and therefore has demanded that the lawyers get the same level of press coverage as the first time. Of course, the news that such an action has been dismissed isn't quite as newsworthy as the original filing (which was newsworthy for being an odd way to fight bad patents). Either way, the anonymous lawyer who tipped me off to the original case, has now emailed me again with the order demanding similar press coverage (to be clear: it's the order demanding similar press coverage, not the lawyer, who said rather little in the email). I'll post it here not because the dismissal of the case is interesting, but the idea that the judge believes the plaintiffs can "make sure that the end of these actions gets as much attention as their start." At this point it's unclear if the dismissal is because of the settlement (quite likely) or because it's just not a very good idea to claim patents violate antitrust law. As much as our patent law and patent system are screwed up these days, allowing people to challenge patents on the basis of antitrust class action lawsuits seems likely to only make things worse.

Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1. identicon
    vin, Oct 16th, 2007 @ 3:45pm

    wierd, i thought you guys like taking down patents

    this doesn't seem very dogmatic of you! wheres the preaching?

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

  2. icon
    Mike (profile), Oct 16th, 2007 @ 3:51pm

    Re: wierd, i thought you guys like taking down pat

    this doesn't seem very dogmatic of you! wheres the preaching?

    Huh? I think we're pretty clear that we don't like patents (including this one), but that doesn't mean we support bad ways of trying to invalidate them.

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

  3. identicon
    nedu, Oct 16th, 2007 @ 4:59pm

    Patents and Anti-Trust


    Tangent to the main point of this article, but still something that's kind of relevant and might interest you: Here's a short writeup by Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati concerning one of the interactions between patents and anti-trust.

    You can Google for more on this subject. There's a fair amount out there, if you know how to look for it.

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

  4. identicon
    Joe Smith, Oct 16th, 2007 @ 5:34pm

    Consumers have rights

    In many patent law suits what is lost sight of is that the general public has an interest in protecting intellectual property which is already in the public domain. When NTP tried to extract billions from RIM (and managed to get 612.5 million) it is the consumer who is ultimately going to pay.

    The Federal Circuit and the CAFC have abandoned or lost sight of any sense of duty to the public as consumers. When the trolls pursue patents that should never have been issued to try to extract monopoly rents they don't deserve from consumers, those consumers should have a power to fight back directly. Personally, I'd prefer prison for trolls but no one listens to me...

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

  5. identicon
    John Duncan Yoyo, Oct 17th, 2007 @ 1:50am

    Shouldn't we be making fun of the judge?

    It seems like a strange thing to order a lawyer to get a certain level of press on a case. How can they control such a thing? Maybe if they staple the decision to Paris, Lindsay, Britney and K-Fed....

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

  6. identicon
    Joe Smith, Oct 17th, 2007 @ 8:46am

    human billboards

    "Maybe if they staple the decision to Paris, Lindsay, Britney and K-Fed...."

    All of whom, except for Paris, could use the work ...

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

  7. identicon
    S. Mohan, Apr 23rd, 2008 @ 6:19am


    Pls send me the publised patents and granded patent through my mail

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

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