from the what-happens-when-they-can-defend-themselves dept
Back in July, we wrote about how notorious patent troll Lodsys — a “company” (and I use that term very, very loosely) that was set up with some patents from Intellectual Ventures, and has been going around threatening and suing a ton of app developers — sued Todd Moore’s company TMSOFT. The incredible thing here was that Lodsys’s lawyer actually admitted to Moore’s lawyer that the reason Lodsys had targeted Moore was that Moore had called Lodsys a patent troll on his podcast. In other words, the patent lawsuit had almost nothing to do with patent infringement, but rather was pretty clearly a SLAPP suit, designed to shut up a critic. And, incredibly, Lodsys more or less admitted this.
Moore was lucky to team up with Dan Ravicher from PUBPAT who represented him pro bono. While I don’t always agree with Ravicher on a variety of patent issues, I respect the work he’s done over the years to fight bad patents, and he is one of the few patent lawyers out there who will work on cases like this. Because he didn’t have to pay legal fees, Moore could actually fight back, and Lodsys and its lawyers must have known that they were going to lose big time, and with Texas’ strong anti-SLAPP law on the books, it was going to cost them. So, it’s little surprise to see that Lodsys quickly agreed to dismiss the case with prejudice without Moore having to pay anything. They did get three concessions out of him, though. He had to agree not to sue to invalidate Lodsys’ patents, to dismiss his own counterclaims against Lodsys (i.e., the anti-SLAPP stuff) and then make a donation to charity.
The charity bit seems weird, but the guess from Ravicher is that if Moore had turned down the offer, it would be used by Lodsys in court to suggest that Moore wasn’t being reasonable, since the case could be ended with just a small donation to a charity (in this case, the Make-a-Wish foundation, after Lodsys rejected both EFF and PUBPAT).
But the latter part of Moore’s discussion of what happened reveals why patent trolling is such a big business: this whole thing cost Lodsys next to nothing. Moore fought back because it cost him next to nothing too, but that was only because Ravicher was willing to work pro bono. If Ravicher had charged regular rates, just this month or so of activity would have cost a significant amount:
The total costs to my company would have been $190,000. And that’s just for the initial response to this lawsuit. We hadn’t even gotten to court which would have increased that amount into millions. Remember that it only cost Lodsys about $450 to file the lawsuit. This is why small businesses will usually always settle. It’s just not worth it to fight. And even if you could win and get awarded your attorneys fees and costs, which are very rare, you probably won’t see a dime of that money.
Many of the lawyers representing patent trolls do so on a contingency basis — they get paid a cut of whatever comes in — so the costs to the trolls really is basically just the actual filing costs, while the cost to do even the most minimal defense, as was the case here where it was a slam dunk, quickly jumps into the six figures and beyond. That’s a pretty graphic demonstration of why the system is completely and totally broken.