Company Threatens EFF With Defamation In Response To EFF Trying To Bust Its Patent

from the slappity-slapp-slapp dept

Back in January, we noted that the EFF had scored another hit in its ongoing patent-busting project, getting the USPTO to re-examine a patent held by Seer Systems. It appears that Seer Systems doesn't much like being targeted by the EFF and decided to threaten the group with a defamation lawsuit over how it described Seer's actions. For example the EFF claimed that Seer was "threatening small companies" and Seer disputes the EFF's definition of small. That seems like pretty fine tooth nitpicking there, and hardly defamatory. It certainly feels like a threatened SLAPP, and (luckily) California has a pretty good anti-SLAPP law, which the EFF's attorney has suggested that Seer Systems acquaint itself with before moving forward with any lawsuits. Either way, it's fairly amazing that anyone would think it's a wise move to threaten the EFF with defamation based on something as weak as whether or not some startup is "small" or not.
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Filed Under: anti-slapp, california, defamation, eff, patents, slapp
Companies: eff, seer systems

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  1. identicon
    Chuck Money, 8 Mar 2009 @ 11:13pm

    Re: Who over at Seer is running that clown show?

    PMB = Postal Mail Box

    Translation: No, you'd either see the post office or something like the UPS Store. This, of course, means Seer more than likely is a small business (well...not big enough to have a mail room) or at least in a remote location.

    That said, I think the whole point here isn't weather the business in question is small. 99% of the patents mentioned as being "bad" - by the EFF, Techdirt, or anywhere else - are bad because there's prior art. The USPTO needs to either:

    A) Reject all patents and require a refile - without any refund of filing fee - where there MIGHT be prior art or...
    B) Have a certain minimum period after the patent is filed wherein the new patent holder can only claim limited damages and zero attorney's fees from any lawsuit arising from their new patent. This should probably be between a year and two.

    To explain my second point a bit, in any civil lawsuit, there's "Actual Damages" and "Punitive Damages." If a patent holder files within this initial period, they should be allowed to ONLY collect Actual Damages (that is, specific dollar amounts they can prove that they directly lost as a result of the infringement) and they will have to cover their own attorney's fees, as well as the Defendant's attorneys fees if they lose (so Defense attorneys will agree to take on these cases if the patent is clearly bogus.) After this period, and only then, should they be allowed to claim any Punitive damages (i.e. "we MIGHT have lost this much, but we'll never know for sure...") and collect any attorneys fees.

    What this would do is allow someone who gets a legitimate patent to protect it, while preventing the bullying tactic often used by patent troll attorneys.

    I'm a parelegal, and though our firm does not do patent cases, I have seen attorneys represent clients who are clearly legally in the wrong. We represent mostly trucking companies, and in one instance I remember vividly, a lady was talking on a cell phone, ran a red light 8 seconds after it turned red, and then got hit by a dump truck driven by one of our clients' drivers. She sued us. Legally, she was in the wrong, and she totaled an $80,000+ dump truck, but even with insurance to pay for her very minor injuries, she sued us. We eventually counter sued, won, and got a $47,000 judgment against her, but the legal fees for depositions, briefs, etc - costs we ourselves had to pay to others - was over $20k, and odds are good that our client will be lucky to see $5k of the money. My point is that though I have seen the legal system help out the poor time and again, the problem is not the system, but those working within it. The legal system is somewhat like a game of blackjack. You can play fair and you might win or might lose but it will be worth trying because your odds are as good as what you make them to be. But some people will always use dirty tricks to win when the law says they shouldn't. The problem with the legal system is that casino security doesn't come and throw you out the door when you pull those tricks.

    Of course, if you want my honest opinion, I think we should just kill all the idiots and convert the world to Communism, then this would be irrelevant, but while we're stuck with this system, a grace period plan like what I have described would fix most of these problems.

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