Patent Holders Trying To Drag 3rd Parties Into Patent Disputes
from the troll-expansion dept
While the patent holders are claiming that without this the patents would be unenforceable, the EFF filing reasonably argues that the problem is that the patents were drafted poorly, and patents should make clear that when they list out a series of steps, those steps are performed by a single party. The arguments by the patent holders would put almost everyone at risk of being directly liable for patent infringement without them realizing it. We see broad patent claims asserted against various internet companies all the time. Imagine if every user of those services could suddenly be sued for infringement as well, just because clicking on a button, adding a tag or whatever, helped "infringe" on the patent in question in combination with the service provider?
As the filing notes, there is simply no social benefit to imposing liability on such third party users. They're hardly in a position to stop the infringement (let alone even know that it's going on). All they're doing is using a service that is offered to them.
Not surprisingly, one of the companies making this argument, McKesson, is using copyright law to back this fundamentally new interpretation of patent law. Specifically, McKesson cites the Supreme Court's terrible Grokster decision on third party liability, and is trying to extend it to patent law. Of course, McKesson does not even properly cite Grokster, falsely claiming that Grokster claims "a defendant's decision to profit from infringement 'while declining to exercise a right to stop or limit it'" makes one liable. That's simply not the Grokster rule at all. Grokster set out a specific set of criteria under which a third party would be liable, but "declining to exercise a right to stop or limit" is not nearly enough.