Patent Troll That Accused FindTheBest Of 'Hate Crime' For Fighting Back Now Has To Pay FTB's Legal Fees
from the fee-shifting-ftw dept
The impact of the Supreme Court's ruling in the Octane Fitness case around fee shifting is already being felt. We already noted that NewEgg was able to pursue fees against a troll, but in another high profile case, a court has already ordered a patent troll to pay up for the bogus lawsuit it brought.
You may recall this case: After patent troll Lumen View went after startup FindTheBest, FTB's CEO Kevin O'Connor announced that he'd spend $1 million fighting the troll rather than settling for the $50,000 offered. In response, Lumen View accused O'Connor of "hate crimes" for calling Lumen View a patent troll. Later, Lumen View sought (and thankfully failed) to get a gag order on FTB for revealing information that was perfectly fine to reveal. In fact, Lumen View demanded that FTB try to remove prior disclosures from the internet.
Of course it was all just posturing. While this was going on, Lumen View kept making more and more desperate attempts to get FTB to settle. But FTB knew it didn't need to settle because it wasn't violating the patent -- something it made clear to Lumen View right at the beginning. In the end, the court not only found that FTB didn't infringe, it invalidated the patent itself (US Patent 8,069,073, in case you were wondering).
And, now, Judge Denise Cote has also told Lumen View that, in light of the Octane Fitness ruling, it has to pay FTB's legal fees as well. The ruling notes that it was clear from the outset that FTB didn't infringe (whether or not the patent was valid), and Lumen's continued pursuit of FTB was clearly abusive.
First, Lumen’s lawsuit against FTB was “frivolous” and “objectively unreasonable.” “To be objectively baseless, the infringement allegations must be such that no reasonable litigant could reasonably expect success on the merits.” .... No reasonable litigant could have expected success on the merits in Lumen’s patent infringement lawsuit against FTB because the ‘073 Patent claimed a bilateral matchmaking process requiring multiple parties to input preference information, while FTB’s “AssistMe” feature utilizes the preference data of only one party. Lumen’s own claim construction brief construed the independent claim of the ‘073 Patent as requiring two or more parties to input preference data. That submission urged the term “preference data” to be construed “in conjunction with its plain and ordinary meaning.” And Lumen’s Complaint alleged that FTB’s infringement was predicated on the alleged use of bilateral preference matching. But FTB does not employ bilateral preference matching.The Judge makes it clear she knows that this was purely about trolling for settlement money all along:
And the most basic pre-suit investigation would have revealed this fact.... And if there were any confusion on this score -- and Lumen has provided no basis to find it was confused by the website -- Lumen was certainly on notice of this fact from the outset of the litigation. FTB’s Seigle and O’Connor informed Lumen that FTB’s AssistMe feature did not use the bilateral or multilateral preference matching process in a telephone conversation of June 19. And FTB’s attorney again informed Lumen by telephone and by letter of June 26. Yet Lumen proceeded with an obviously baseless lawsuit, failing to point to any specific way in which FTB infringed the patent.
Lumen’s motivation in this litigation was to extract a nuisance settlement from FTB on the theory that FTB would rather pay an unjustified license fee than bear the costs of the threatened expensive litigation. Lumen never sought to enjoin FTB from the allegedly infringing conduct in its prayer for relief. Lumen’s threats of “full-scale litigation,” “protracted discovery,” and a settlement demand escalator should FTB file responsive papers, were aimed at convincing FTB that a pay-off was the lesser injustice.Furthermore, the judge notes that since Lumen filed a bunch of very similar complaints, fees are certainly justified since the company seems to be using patent lawsuits as "part of a predatory strategy aimed at reaping financial advantage from the inability or unwillingness of defendants to engage in litigation against even frivolous patent lawsuits."
This is a great win for a company that was willing to stand up against a bogus patent troll lawsuit, and it's great to see that the troll will now have to pay up (how much will be determined later). Once again, we see how badly CAFC had screwed things up (for years!) with its ridiculously high standard for patent fees. Thanks to the Supreme Court fixing things in the Octane ruling, hopefully, we'll see more companies willing to stand up to trolls and not having to worry so much about how much it will cost to defend themselves against obviously bogus claims.