Nebraska Attorney General Sued For Trying To Stop Patent Troll

from the patent-trolls-getting-aggressive dept

Earlier this year, we noted that Vermont had declared war on patent trolls, arguing that patent trolling violated state consumer protection laws (and then passing a further law against patent trolling). More recently, the state of Minnesota made it clear that patent trolls aren't welcome there either. Nebraska's Attorney General Jon Bruning has tried a similar strategy, sending a cease-and-desist to at least one patent troll for violating state consumer protection laws and speaking out against patent trolls.

Activision TV (who appears to be unrelated to video gaming company Activision), using patents like US Patent 7,369,058 and US Patent 8,330,613 relating to digital displays, has been demanding license fees from a variety of companies. Bruning stepped in to let Activision and its lawyers know that they needed to cease and desist and were potentially violating Nebraska law, by using "false, misleading or deceptive statements" in seeking licensing fees. The letter also notes that this may be a form of "baseless harassment" and that the demands for licensing letters "serve to advance no valid legal purpose."

In response, it appears Activision has decided to get even more aggressive. As reader Nate sent in, Activision turned around and sued Bruning and some of his colleagues, arguing that he unfairly referred to them as a "patent troll" without doing a thorough investigation first. The filing, embedded below, is quite long, but goes on and on and on (and on and on -- making you wonder if Activision's lawyers get paid per word) about how unfair it is to be labeled a patent troll. It also argues that Bruning is attempting to stifle their First Amendment rights (along with their Fifth and Fourteenth Amendment rights as well). Apparently they believe that shaking a company down for "licensing" fees is protected speech.

Reading the lawsuit and comparing it to the letter that Bruning sent, it appears like a massive overreach by Activision -- and while I have my issues with how states' attorneys general will often act, this actually appears to be a legitimate case of trying to stop the aggressive use of questionable patents to demand money from lots of different companies.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  •  
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    Violynne (profile), Sep 10th, 2013 @ 6:36am

    Just a teeny, tiny nitpick: the article should spell out Activision TV rather than just "Activision", or at least, ATV.

    I can see the problems this article will cause when people may scrape a subsection and post it elsewhere on the interwebs.

     

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    Lord Binky, Sep 10th, 2013 @ 8:35am

    So the filing says :
    Plaintiff is a corporation.
    Plaintiff's constitutional rights (First, Fifth, Fourteenth) were violated.

    So it's definitive that corporations are people? A corporation has the right to vote? A corporation can bear arms?

     

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    •  
      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Sep 10th, 2013 @ 8:41am

      Re:

      Forming a corporation is also a great way to get around marriage laws! If you're gay just form a corporation together and give it all your assets with yourselves as the controllers of the corporation! It works for straight couples to!

      It'll also help deal couples deal with the #1 reason for divorce, money problems. One 'spouse' can simply 'buy' the other 'spouse' out of the financially troubled 'marriage' corporation, or they can have their 'marriage' corporation declare bankruptcy!

       

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        AB (profile), Sep 10th, 2013 @ 9:33am

        Re: Re:

        Corporations may not have those rights yet, but the very existence of this filing clearly shows how far down that slope we have come.

        No business should ever be able to shield the person/people running it. And that includes public corporations such as cities and even nations. Such protections place individuals 'above the law' (*) which (eventually) will completely destroy both the rule of law and democracy as a whole.

        The single biggest mistake ever made was to give corporations a set of 'rights' - and especially allowing those 'rights' to _ever_ override human rights in any way.

        *(no trademark/copyright infringement intended, sigh)

         

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          Forest_GS, Sep 10th, 2013 @ 3:23pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          I think there are some circumstances when it is appropriate for a corporation to shield one of it's employees. What if a waitress spills V8 tomato juice on a celebrity's white dress?

          BUT, you are correct, corporations should not be able to shield it's bosses/people that run it.

           

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          Anonymous Coward, Sep 11th, 2013 @ 5:56am

          Re: Re: Re:

          And while the "corporate fiction" is not to be tossed aside lightly I've tried to get a (Corrupt) Court Commissioner to do just that.

          As the case was getting worse and worse for the Commissioner in question eventually they made me go away by "seeing" the default judgement in the case and paid me in full, thus the corruption was hand-waved away.

           

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      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Sep 10th, 2013 @ 1:48pm

      Re:

      I'm starting a corporation that is going to have a huge arsenal underneath the building. Massive. Rival to any military force in the world. And since I'm in Texas I'm going to apply (as the corporation) for a CHL so that I can hide the handguns in secret compartments around my corporate offices.

      I don't know what we're going to do to make money, but you gave me an awesome idea.

       

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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 10th, 2013 @ 8:37am

    I'll have to remember to try their argument if I ever go into a career of blackmailing and extorting money from people.

    "You're violating my first amendment rights to say whatever I want to earn money officer. My threats to publish highly embarrassing information if I don't get paid a million dollars are all free speech!"

     

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  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
     
    identicon
    out_of_the_blue, Sep 10th, 2013 @ 8:57am

    Right! AGs enforce existing laws against unearned income.

    Isn't it amazing that solutions to the problems Mike writes about are actually well-known, historically proven, even laws on the books? -- There's nothing basically wrong with the patent system except the constant main problem with "capitalism": greedy actors who produce nothing except new ways to grift off honest traders. The element in common is always unearned income, and that's covered by consumer protection and other anti-trust-ish laws.

    So, Mike: start reading up on the New Deal! When Roosevelt saved capitalism from money manipulators, 'cause that's exactly what's needed yet again. All that crap you learned in college was about manipulating money, not producing goods.

    The solution for most societal ills is HIGH INCOME TAX RATES. -- WAGES should not be taxed at all! Income in statute means unearned income.

     

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    That One Guy (profile), Sep 10th, 2013 @ 9:23am

    So that's where he's been hiding....

    Claiming legal threats and shakedown letters are 'protected speech', and that attempting to stop people from sending them is a violation of their first amendment rights.... was wondering what Carreon had been up to, looks like he found some like minded individuals to partner up with for a quick buck.

     

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    DB, Sep 10th, 2013 @ 10:53am

    At least the cost of defending this is spread across 'the people' rather than unfairly borne by those civic-minded enough to resist extortion.

    Is there precedent on the reasonableness of an attorney filing a claim based on a corporation's "first amendment rights" to commit fraud? It's 'commercial speech', which doesn't have the protections of a natural person's speech. It hardly seems like a 'novel legal theory'.

     

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    Steph Kennedy, IPTT, Sep 10th, 2013 @ 11:45am

    Activision TV shows up in no less than 20 Patent Litigation alerts sent from PriorSmart since August of last year, suing pretty much everyone and their uncle, most recently MGM Resorts and Cinemark. Going after deep pockets much?

    Cry my a river, troll. You are what you are, don't act surprised when people call you on it.

    http://iptrolltracker2.wordpress.com/2013/08/23/my-tax-dollars-at-work-us-govt-tells-us-what- we-already-know/

    Just sayin,

    IPTT

     

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    gyffes, Sep 10th, 2013 @ 12:34pm

    All I can do

    is repeat the comment someone wittier than I made, "I won't believe a corporation is a person until Texas executes one."


    And if it wanted to start with ootb, I wouldn't object.

     

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    M. Alan Thomas II (profile), Sep 12th, 2013 @ 6:32am

    You say you are not a patent troll, sir? Well, then, let discovery commence.

     

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    staff, Sep 12th, 2013 @ 7:46am

    another biased article

    'trying to stop the aggressive use of questionable patents'

    infringers definition of 'questionable patents': someone else's

    “patent troll”

    infringers and their paid puppets’ definition of ‘patent troll’:

    anyone who has the nerve to sue us for stealing their invention

    This is just spin control by large infringers to cover up their theft.

    The patent system now teeters on the brink of lawlessness. Call it what you will...patent hoarder, patent troll, non-practicing entity, shell company, etc. It all means one thing: “we’re using your invention and we’re not going to stop or pay”. It’s a pure red herring by large invention thieves and their paid puppets to kill any inventor support system. Their goal is to legalize theft. The fact is, many of the large multinationals and their puppets who defame inventors in this way themselves make no products in the US or create any American jobs and it is their continued blatant theft which makes it impossible for the true creators to do so. To them the only patents that are legitimate are their own -if they have any. Meanwhile, the huge multinationals ship more and more US jobs overseas.

    It’s about property rights. They should not only be for the rich and powerful -campaign contributors. Our founders: Jefferson, Franklin, Madison and others felt so strongly about the rights of inventors that they included inventors rights to their creations and discoveries in the Constitution. They understood the trade off. Inventors are given a limited monopoly and in turn society gets the benefits of their inventions (telephone, computer, airplane, automobile, lighting, etc) into perpetuity and the jobs the commercialization of those inventions bring. For 200 years the patent system has not only fueled the US economy, but the world’s. If we weaken the patent system, we force inventors underground like Stradivarius (anyone know how to make a Stradivarius violin?) and in turn weaken our economy and job creation. Worse yet, we destroy the American dream -the ability to prosper from our ingenuity for the benefit of our families and communities. To kill or weaken the patent system is to kill their futures. Show me a country with weak or ineffective property rights and I’ll show you a weak economy with high unemployment. If we cannot own the product of our minds or labors, what can we be said to truly own. Life and liberty are fundamentally tied to and in fact based on property rights. Our very lives are inseparably tied to our property.

    Prior to the Supreme Court case eBay v Mercexchange, small entities had a viable chance at commercializing their inventions. If the defendant was found guilty, an injunction was most always issued. Then the inventor small entity could enjoy the exclusive use of his invention in commercializing it. Unfortunately, injunctions are often no longer available to small entity inventors because of the eBay decision so we have no fair chance to compete with much larger entities who are now free to use our inventions. Essentially, large infringers now have your gun and all the bullets. Worse yet, inability to commercialize means those same small entities will not be hiring new employees to roll out their products and services. And now those same parties who killed injunctions for small entities and thus blocked their chance at commercializing now complain that small entity inventors are not commercializing. They created the problem and now they want to blame small entities for it. What dissembling! If you don’t like this state of affairs (your unemployment is running out), tell your Congress member. Then maybe we can get some sense back into the patent system with injunctions fully enforceable on all infringers by all patentees, large and small.

    Those wishing to help fight big business giveaways should contact us as below and join the fight as we are building a network of inventors and other stakeholders to lobby Congress to restore property rights for all patent owners -large and small.

    For the truth about trolls, please see http://truereform.piausa.org/default.html#pt.
    http://www.hoover.org/publications/defining-ideas/art icle/142741
    http://ssrn.com/abstract=1792442
    https://www.facebook.com/pi.ausa.5
    http://piausa.wor dpress.com/

     

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    Shawn, Jan 7th, 2014 @ 11:23am

    Patent Troll

    I have been following Activision for sometime. What I think a lot of people are missing, is that David Gothard the owner of Activision invented something years ago with forethought and vision, which he was smart enough to obtain a patent for. There weren't a ton of competitors in the market at the time of the patent award. He has actively kept his patents current which is very hard to do. Now because of technology and the advances there are a ton of ways to infringe and people are whinning because they didn't know they were stealing and don't want to pay.

    Now, There are 1000's of people using his patent without paying for it. If you read the court pleading you will see, that they contacted the offenders a number of times, telling them they can license the technology or remove it with no further issues. In each case that is filed the companies refuse to believe they are infringing. Most of these people think there is no way this patten is valid. The problem is as each company will find out the patten is valid and they are voilating it.

    I look at this as Microsoft fighting to keep you from using their software illegally, or the record/movie industry suing a 12 year old for downloading music illegally. We all thought how ridiculous until a couple of thousand people got a bill for thousands for doings it.

    There is no difference in what Activision is trying to do. He is telling the infringers to stop stealing his patent or pay him to use it. As a business executive I hope he wins. He gave them an opportunity to stop or pay him and they said see you in court.

    Only time will tell whether Activision wins but many analyst believe this dog has a case and will prevail in most of his suits. Oh, and as for the Attorney General, I love that the judge told him to sit down and shut-up.

     

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