How One Startup Used Patents To Kill A (Better) Competitor

from the sad dept

Teck points us to an all too typical, but still disappointing, story of a startup, Like.com (which previously was Riya), and how it allegedly killed off a better competitor with patents. In a strategically timed move, it sued the competitor, Modista, just days before it was going to close funding:
The lawsuit caused investors including Kumar to drop out, for fear of dealing with an expensive lawsuit that could cost more than they had even planned to invest. Because Modista had no money to defend the suit in court, the company later shut down.
This sort of story is more common than you might imagine. I recently had a conversation with a serial entrepreneur who told a similar story. One of his previous companies had been quite successful, and was on the verge of being acquired for upwards of $70 million. Days before the deal was to be closed, one of their competitors got wind of the deal, and filed a patent infringement lawsuit against them, leading the acquirer to drop the deal. Without the funds to fight the lawsuit, the entrepreneur had no other option but to sell his company to the company who sued him for less than $5 million.

Ask around, and you discover that this happens all the time -- patent holders using patents not to innovate, but to block and kill other companies -- especially when those companies really are more innovative and have a better product.

Filed Under: competition, image recognition, patents
Companies: like.com, modista, riya


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  1. identicon
    John Doe, 4 May 2011 @ 5:14am

    Re: Shocked! Shocked, I say!

    It sounds like these were software patents which IMHO shouldn't even be allowed. It is one thing to innovate with hardware but most software patents are on obvious things. Just look at the Amazon patent on one-click checkout. Web retailers were storing your shopping cart and your previous credit card info so it is only logical that a one-click checkout would show up. It is not some giant leap in innovation.

    Also, think of the balance of patents for both inventor and consumer. For an inventor to block out all competition is bad for the consumer. A balance must be struck and right now there is no balance.

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