Why Is A Charity For Abused Kids Suing A Bunch Of Tech Companies For Patent Infringement?

from the questions-that-need-to-be-asked dept

Really not sure what to make of this. A typical patent trolling type organization named Azure Networks filed two separate lawsuits right before Christmas, against a bunch of semiconductor companies, including Texas Instruments, Freescale, Atmel, Alereon, Samsung, Synopsis and others. At first glance, these lawsuits seem pretty typical: filed in Eastern Texas, filed by a small company whose only purpose is to sue, suing a bunch of big tech companies who actually do something. It meets all the standard checkmarks of these types of lawsuits.

But some folks have noticed one oddity: named as co-plaintiff along with Azure Networks is a local Texas charity. The Tri-County Excelsior Foundation is named as a plaintiff, with a note that it is a non-profit corporation that is "a supporting organization" to a charity called Casa of Harrison County. Casa of Harrison County appears to be a perfectly admirable charity -- based in Marshall Texas -- focused on training "community volunteers to be advocates for abused and neglected children in the custody of Child Protective Services."

So why are they a co-plaintiff in the lawsuit? That's not clear at all. I've embedded one of the two lawsuits below. It says that Tri-County Excelsior Foundation is a plaintiff, but does not explain its relationship to the patent. The filing does say that Azure has a license on the patent, but does not say from whom. The patent in question (7,020,501) lists BBNT Solutions LLC as the assignee, but it's possible that the patent has since been handed off to others.

I have no idea if the patent is valid or not. I have no idea if the companies are infringing or not. But it does seem... odd, to see a non-profit charity supposedly focused on helping abused children, somehow getting involved in a typical patent trolling lawsuit.

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  1. identicon
    Jeff, 4 Jan 2011 @ 3:30am

    Re: ownership

    The current owner (assignee) is TRI-COUNTY EXCELSIOR FOUNDATION. Here is the whole chain of custody from the USPTO's assignment database...

    12/07/2001
    Inventors: ELLIOTT, BRIG BARNUM;PEARSON, DAVID SPENCER
    Assignee: BBNT SOLUTIONS LLC
    ----------------------
    01/03/2006
    Assignor: BBNT SOLUTIONS LLC
    Assignee: BBN TECHNOLOGIES CORP.
    ----------------------
    07/07/2008
    Assignor: BBN TECHNOLOGIES CORP.
    Assignee: STRAGENT, LLC
    ----------------------
    10/10/2008
    Assignor: STRAGENT, LLC
    Assignee: POWER MESH NETWORKS, LLC
    ----------------------
    08/20/2009
    Assignor: POWER MESH NETWORKS, LLC
    Assignee: AZURE NETWORKS, LLC
    ----------------------
    06/10/2010
    Assignor: AZURE NETWORKS, LLC
    Assignee: TRI-COUNTY EXCELSIOR FOUNDATION

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