We've written about patent hoarding firm RTI before, back when it sued Google
. At the time, we pointed to Rich Tehrani's fantastic article about the company
and how it was basically one guy who claimed his rather narrow patents covered pretty much everything having to do with VoIP. Pretty much any company of any substantial size that had anything to do with VoIP had been on the receiving end of threats and/or lawsuits from RTI.
Now, Joe Mullin
points us to an absolutely fantastic description from the CEO of Fonality exposing RTI's patent badgering techniques -- and how Fonality fought back
and (almost) won. The "almost" part is the sad part. In the end, they still paid the guy a little bit of money, though it was significantly less than what he had been asking for (and what he had sued them for). And, tragically, this plays into RTI's game plan as well -- as part of his initial pitch is sending over a list of all the other companies who have settled over these patents, which makes plenty of companies feel that since those other companies "settled" then it wasn't worth fighting and they might as well settle too. This is unfortunate.
But at least the post describes how to push back on his various claims. Here's a short excerpt, but it's worth reading the whole thing:
It was then that Jimmy enacted the second part of the classic troll playbook. Peer pressure. Jimmy started to list (and provide documentation to support) literally hundreds of other "big" companies that had already settled with him over this same patent. Heck, it seemed like everyone from AT&T to Cisco was on this list. A sustained bout of queasiness settled over me. Yikes, if they couldn't beat this guy, what chance did I have? He even told us how he had sued the mighty Google for $5B!...
But, then a funny thing happened. When we asked him *how* much he had settled for, he wouldn't tell us. Nor did asking "the Google" (you know, that series of interconnected pipes) help us much. There just seemed to be a dearth of information on either settlement amounts or terms. Did they settle for a million dollars? A billion? A free iPod? An agreement not to mention that they settled for zero? Well, heck, if nobody was writing about it, and Jimmy wasn't boasting about it, it probably wasn't much to boast about anyway. So, when my lawyers called and asked us if we were ready to settle, I did what every strong leader does in a moment of crisis. I put the call on speakerphone, crawled under my desk, and cowered with hands over head. It was from that towering position of omniscience that I gave the proud warrior cry to "fight on!"
Hopefully more folks will start exposing some of the sneakier tactics used in patent infringement lawsuits -- and how to fight back as well.