Patents

by Mike Masnick


Filed Under:
jay walker, patents



Jay Walker Sues Nearly Every Successful Internet Company, Claiming They're All Built Off His Patents

from the exhibit-number-one-in-why-business-method-patents-are-lame dept

Last fall, we noted that Priceline founder Jay Walker had apparently gone full on patent troll, with a series of lawsuits against Facebook (for "friending" -- violating patent #5,884,272) and the Powerball Lottery (for having lottery "multipliers" in violation of patent #7,740,537).

Of course, Walker has a very long history of being more interested in patents and locking up ideas than actually engaging in innovation. Yes, he actually did some innovating with Priceline, but all the way back in 1999 he was talking about how excited he was about the ability to patent business methods, which had really only recently been thought of as patentable. He certainly took to it quickly, patenting all sorts of business ideas.

Apparently those lawsuits last year were just the warm up act. Joe Mullin alerts us to the news that Walker has teamed up with the rather infamous patent troll Erich Spangenberg, whose motto is sue first, ask questions later in order to sue over 100 different companies for violating various patents he holds. Among the companies sued are Microsoft, eBay, Amazon, Facebook (again!), WalMart, Groupon, Apple, Sony and Google.

Even better, he's put out a press release that plays up how various fawning press reports have lavished praise on Walker, and then suggests that pretty much any successful internet company wouldn't exist without Walker's brilliant inventions:
"A number of great companies can trace their genesis to technology that was first developed at Walker Digital in the mid-to-late 1990s. We are proud of our inventions and the number of innovative businesses and activities founded on these inventions. These businesses have not only changed the way people around the world live, work, travel and interact socially and commercially, but also have given rise to numerous American jobs."
The press release also plays up the claim that they prefer not to sue (uh... yeah...) and that they would have liked it better if these companies had just agreed to give them money in the first place. That's pretty amusing coming from a company that has teamed up with Spangenberg who has flat out said he prefers to sue first. If you don't want to sue, you don't work with someone like Spangenberg.

Mullin has a summary of a few of the new lawsuits:
  • A lawsuit [PDF] against Citigroup, Discover, Wells Fargo, and two payment-services companies, T-Chek Systems and Orbiscom, saying the companies infringe two patents on a "Method And Device For Generating A Single-Use Financial Account Number."
  • A lawsuit [PDF] against daily deal sites, including Groupon, Livingsocial (and parent company Amazon), and smaller sites like BuyWithMe, Tippr.com, jasmere.com, and juiceinthecity.com. Those sites are alleged to infringe four Walker patents, including one issued in 2001 called "Systems and Methods Wherein A Buyer Purchases A Product At A First Price And Acquires The Product From A Merchant That Offers The Product For Sale At A Second Price." For example, the lawsuit says BuyWithMe is in trouble because it "offers buyers products and services from retailers at discounted prices and arranges for users to take possession of the goods or services at the retailers' locations." Hmm… that was invented in 2001.
  • A lawsuit [PDF] against online game operators, including—(deep breath)--Activision, Atari, Cartoon Interactive Group, Disney Interactive, Electronic Arts, ESPN Internet Ventures, Microsoft, Miniclip America, MLB Advanced Media, Onlive, Popcap Games, Sony Corp., Turbine, Turner Digital Basketball Services, Valve Corp., Walt Disney, Yahoo, and Zynga. The companies are accused of violating two patents, including this one, which "allows video and computer game enthusiasts to submit their game outcomes to a central online repository so that they can be compared to the results of other players."
  • A lawsuit [PDF] over mapping technology, filed against Apple, Google, Samsung, Microsoft, Telenav, Mio Technology, TomTom, and others.
Isn't the patent system great? It allows people to take general ideas that lots of people have, give you a monopoly on them for doing nothing... and then sue all the companies who were successful actually implementing them... all the while letting you suggest that those companies unfairly "took" your idea.

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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 14 Apr 2011 @ 3:12pm

    More the merrier

    Hmmm... seems like enough defendants to turn around and form a class! I'll leave it to you (white-hat) attorneys to choose the best charge, since it doesn't look like "idiocy" or even "avarice" are grounds for suit.

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