Bill Squier alerts us to the news that a bunch of companies have been sued for daring to store consumer payment information
and allow either stored value payments or one-click payments on their site. The article linked here focuses on Apple as a defendant, and notes 14 other companies were sued as well, but in researching this, I found that Joe Mullin actually wrote about another batch of companies (20 of them) that were sued back in April
. The earlier lawsuit included Google, Wal-Mart, Bank of America, Capital One, JP Morgan Chase, Mastercard, Visa, Vivendi, Disney and Western Union among others. The more recent lawsuit has (as mentioned) Apple, Best Buy, Amazon, American Express, Barnes & Noble, Citigroup and eBay among others. So... basically any online e-commerce site, credit card company or big bank.
As for the patents in question, they're all a variation on a "method and apparatus for conducting electronic commerce transactions using electronic tokens." The specific patents are 7,376,621
. Reading through the claims, this seems like an incredibly typical online system for storing payment info and seeing if the person can actually pay. Since the patent system defenders among our readers get quite
upset whenever I say something seems "obvious" to me, let's flip this around. Can anyone explain how these concepts were not obvious at the time of filing?
Not surprisingly, the cases have been filed in Marshall, Texas... and as Joe Mullin figured out, the guy who is running "Actus" is a lawyer known for representing some infamous patent hoarding companies. He also discovered that the lawyer representing Actus in these lawsuits appears to share an office
(or at least the same address) with the son (who is also a patent attorney) of the judge handling the case. At some point, do people start questioning whether or not there's a conflict of interest there?