SoftBank Owned Patent Troll, Using Monkey Selfie Law Firm, Sues To Block Covid-19 Testing, Using Theranos Patents

from the and-that's-not-even-all-the-insane-parts dept

Honestly, I wasn't sure how to begin this story or how to fit all the insanity into the title. It's a story involving patents, patent trolling, Covid-19, Theranos, and even the company that brought us all WeWork: SoftBank. Oh, and also Irell & Manella, the same law firm that once claimed it could represent a monkey in a copyright infringement dispute. You see, Irell & Manella has now filed one of the most utterly bullshit patent infringement lawsuits you'll ever see. They are representing "Labrador Diagnostics LLC" a patent troll which does not seem to exist other than to file this lawsuit, and which claims to hold the rights to two patents (US Patents 8,283,155 and 10,533,994) which, you'll note, were originally granted to Elizabeth Holmes and Theranos -- the firm that shut down in scandal over medical testing equipment that appears to have been oversold and never actually worked. Holmes is still facing federal charges of wire fraud over the whole Theranos debacle.

However, back in 2018, the remains of Theranos sold its patents to Fortress Investment Group. Fortress Investment Group is a SoftBank-funded massive patent troll. You may remember the name from the time last fall when Apple and Intel sued the firm, laying out how Fortress is a sort of uber-patent troll, gathering up a bunch of patents and then shaking down basically everyone. Lovely, right?

So, this SoftBank-owned patent troll, Fortress, bought up Theranos patents, and then set up this shell company, "Labrador Diagnostics," which decided that right in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic it was going to sue one of the companies making Covid-19 tests, saying that its test violates those Theranos patents, and literally demanding that the court bar the firm from making those Covid-19 tests.

A bit more background here: the company they're suing, BioFire, recently launched three Covid-19 tests built off of the company's FilmArray technology. And that's what "Labrador" (read: SoftBank) is now suing over. From the lawsuit:

The Accused Products embody at least claim 1 of the '155 Patent, literally or under the doctrine of equivalents, as set forth below. The further descriptions below, which are based on publicly available information, are preliminary examples and are non-limiting. On information and belief, the FilmArray 2.0, FilmArray EZ, and FilmArray Torch devices operate, together with the FilmArray pouches and software, similarly as pertinent to the non-limiting examples set forth below. On information and belief, the FilmArray EZ operates in substantially the same manner as the FilmArray 2.0, and as such is not separately addressed below. For the purposes of infringement, Plaintiff Labrador's non-limiting examples relating to the FilmArray 2.0 are equally applicable to the FilmArray EZ, albeit with use of at least the RP EZ Panel designed for use with the FilmArray EZ. See BioFire Diagnostics Website, https://www.biofiredx.com/products/the-filmarraypanels/ filmarray-respiratory-panel-ez/.

So, let's summarize: The firm that basically created the mess that is WeWork by dumping billions of dollars into the company, also owns a patent troll that bought up the patents from the sham medical testing firm Theranos, and is now using those patents to sue one of the few diagnostics companies that is actually making a Covid-19 test... in the middle of a pandemic. And, demanding the use of those tests be blocked:

That Defendants be enjoined from infringing the Asserted Patents, or if their infringement is not enjoined, that Defendants be ordered to pay ongoing royalties to Labrador for any post-judgment infringement of the Asserted Patents;

Honestly, I'm used to all sorts of awfulness, but this one piles awfulness upon awfulness, and takes it to a level of pure evil. The lawyers filing this lawsuit on behalf of "Labrador" should remember what they've done -- filing a bullshit patent trolling lawsuit, on behalf of a shell company for a notorious giant patent troll, using patents from a sham company, and using them to try to block the use of Covid-19 diagnostic tests in the middle of a pandemic. I wonder how they sleep at night. For the record, there are two law firms behind this filing. Irell & Manella is the big one, and they list out 7 different lawyers on this complaint: Morgan Chu, Alan Heinrich, Keith Orso, Adina Stohl, Dennis Courtney, Brian Weissenberg and Chaplin Carmichael. Their local firm is Farnan LLP, and the lawyers there are Brian and Michael Farnan. Morgan Chu is the big shot at Irell and runs its litigation group. He should take on much of the responsibility for this awful, awful lawsuit. Farnan LLP was formed by a former federal district court judge, Joseph Farnan, and I'll just note that 4 out of its 6 attorneys, including the two on this case have the same last name.

I understand the need for zealous representation of a client in court, but this seems even more despicable than your every day patent trolling, and people should associate these lawyers names with the truly despicable behavior on display here. Similarly, it should be a reminder of why its a good thing that the Supreme Court decided a decade and a half ago that injunctions are often inappropriate in patent cases. I know that there's an effort underway to have Congress change the law to overrule the Supreme Court decision on that point, but imagine how that would play out in this scenario, in which necessary diagnostic testing might get blocked due to some patent troll with deep pockets.

Filed Under: coronavirus, covid-19, diagnostics, elizabeth holmes, filmarray, injunctions, patent trolling, patents
Companies: biofire, biomerieux, farnan llp, fortress investment group, irell & manella, labrador diagnostics, softbank


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  1. This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
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    Anonymous Coward, 16 Mar 2020 @ 4:18pm

    Patents for genetic sequence

    Why a Saudi Virus Is Spreading Alarm

    A new virus discovered in Saudi Arabia is raising deep concerns over its lethality. An intellectual property dispute could be impeding efforts to contain it, writes CFR’s Laurie Garrett.

    Expert Brief by Laurie Garrett

    May 29, 2013

    https://www.cfr.org/expert-brief/why-saudi-virus-spreading-alarm

    However, Chan called upon the gathered delegates at the World Health Assembly to stand against intellectual property blocks to epidemic responses. The question of ownership of discovery has become the top wedge issue in global health today....

    "The virus was sent out of the country and it was patented, contracts were signed with vaccine companies and anti-viral drug companies, and that’s why they have a MTA [Material Transfer Agreement] to be signed by anybody who can utilize that virus, and that should not happen," Memish said.

    Though Memish referred to a "patent," the Dutch team has not patented the viral genetic sequence but has placed it under an MTA, which requires sample recipients to contractually agree not to develop products or share the sample without the permission of Erasmus and the Fouchier laboratory. Memish said that the Dutch MTA was preventing Saudi Arabia from stopping the MERS-CoV outbreak, which appears to have started eleven months ago in the Eastern part of his country. The Dutch team denies the MTA is slowing work on the outbreak, saying it has given virus samples to any lab that has requested it.

    Courts in North America and Europe have ruled that it is possible to patent life forms or their genetic sequences, spurring the practice of claiming patent control on newly identified microoganisms. Such patents give owner rights over royalties on all products derived from the genetic sequence, including vaccines, diagnostics, and genetically targeted treatments. But they have spawned controversy outside of wealthy countries, since they are perceived as guaranteeing profits for Western pharmaceuticals at the expense of country-of-origin use and access.


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