Patent Troll Runs To Court To Whine About Mean People Online, Insists They Must All Secretly Be From Company It's Suing
from the have-you-wondered-why-people-hate-patent-trolls? dept
Earlier this year (though it feels like decades ago…) we wrote about how Mycroft AI was being sued by a patent troll, and how the company’s CEO Joshua Montgomery had put up quite a blog post about the scourge of patent trolls, and how Mycroft AI had taken the position — like a few smart companies before them — to never settle and never give in to patent trolls. The blog post included this fun paragraph:
I don?t like letting these matters go quietly. In my experience, it?s better to be aggressive and ?stab, shoot and hang? them, then dissolve them in acid. Or simply nuke them from orbit, it is the only way to be sure.
The court case has continued, but the troll (or rather, the troll’s lawyer) Tod Tumey, has apparently received some fairly angry phone calls and emails. Let’s be clear here: do not do that. That’s very much not cool and people certainly don’t deserve threats of violence. No matter how terrible a person you are, and no matter what bad decisions you’ve made in life that lead you to become a lawyer issuing silly patent troll shakedown letters, that doesn’t mean you deserve death threats. But there are lots of idiots on the internet, and sometimes when they get angry, they do stupid things.
Tumey, though, seems to blame Montgomery for all of that, and has run to court to submit a “Motion for Relief to Require Decorous and Civil Conduct by the Parties.” In other words, “Judge, please stop the other side from saying mean things about me online.” I’ve now asked four litigators if they’ve seen such filings in the past, and got varying degrees of bafflement in response. In the more thorough filing accompanying the motion, the “Suggestions in Support of Motion for Relief to Require Decorous and Civil Conduct by the Parties”, Tumey vents his frustration at having people online mad at him.
Regrettably, however, Mycroft, through its CEO/First Officer, Joshua Montgomery, has responded to Voice Tech?s professional and respectful handling of this business dispute with an aggressive campaign of harassment, identity theft, cyber-attacks, and even death threats directed personally at Voice Tech?s counsel, Tod Tumey, and Mr. Tumey?s family. Under these extraordinary circumstances, Voice Tech brings this Motion to ask the Court?s intervention at the outset of this case to require Mycroft and Montgomery to remove the threatening content it has published online and cease its assaultive campaign against Mr. Tumey and his family; to admonish Mycroft and Montgomery that such bad faith conduct is unacceptable and will not be tolerated; to express the Court?s expectation and requirement that the parties will refrain from such abusive behavior going forward; and to place Mycroft and Montgomery on notice that they may be subjected to further sanctions and consequences for their misconduct should they fail to heed the Court?s direction.
The filing goes on to show a number of angry emails that were sent to Tumey’s firm. These are typical angry people on the internet sounding off type emails, but Tumey seems sure that it’s really Montgomery himself.
The timing and nature of this email strongly suggested that Montgomery (or, at the very least, someone acting for him/Mycroft) sent it. Indeed, it includes a link to Montgomery?s Reddit post, and brags about posting Mr. Tumey?s correspondence on the Mycroft website?something, presumably, only Montgomery or someone else at Mycroft could have done. See id. Moreover, the subsequent avalanche of orchestrated assaults on Mr. Tumey and his firm further evidence a purposeful campaign by Montgomery/Mycroft against counsel in apparent retribution for Voice Tech?s orderly, lawful pursuit of its rights through the justice system:
Or — and hear me out on this — the story had already started to go viral on Reddit (the email in question linked to the Reddit story, as noted in the filing) and some immature Redditors, who (for good reasons!) hate patent trolls, decided to act immaturely. That does not mean that it’s Montgomery himself. The next day Tumey received another mean email and again assumes that it must be Montgomery, despite the much more obvious answer that it was people who read the story on Reddit.
First, the next morning after receiving the email shown above, Tumey L.L.P. received another email to its general email account seemingly from the same source (i.e., Montgomery/Mycroft), which, among other hostile content, recommended?in graphic and highly disturbing terms?death and acts of violence against counsel (as Montgomery?s online post had also done)
As Tumey recounts, the various, angry, immature internet trolls then did a bunch of other mean stuff to Tumey — such as signing him up for mailing lists. This is, again, childish behavior. But it’s kinda what often happens when you do something stupid and the internet finds out about it. To blame Montgomery for it seems crazy — and kind of clueless about the internet. But, no, Tumey assumes it’s all because of Montgomery:
The timing and pattern of these activities, as well as the nature of the emails, and similarities and connections with Montgomery?s published posts led Voice Tech?s counsel to conclude that Montgomery, alone or in concert with others, was most likely the individual behind this onslaught of harassment.
Look: again, the actions here were dumb, childish pranks played by dumb, childish individuals. But to lump it all on Montgomery because he published a blog post is crazy. Indeed, later in the filing, Tumey drops even the idea that this juvenile behavior was done “in concert” with Montgomery, and just insists that it was the company Mycroft’s actions directly:
In this case, Mycroft?s threatening suggestions of physical harm and death towards Voice Tech?s counsel, as well as its litany of other harassing and abusive behavior, are antithetical to an orderly and fair judicial process, and undermine the sanctity of this proceeding. As the above authorities demonstrate, it is well within this Court?s inherent authority to make it clear that such conduct will not be tolerated. Indeed, Voice Tech notes that, even in the absence of the extraordinary circumstances of this case, courts routinely issue orders and adopt standing procedures directing civil and professional behavior by those appearing before them.
Notably, nowhere in the filing does Tumey link to the Reddit post in question. So I went and looked, and it sure looks like it went viral in r/linux and did pretty well in a few related open source subreddits as well. In other words, a lot of people who are sick of patent trolls saw the story. The idea that all the messages are coming from Montgomery or Mycroft themselves is simply bonkers.
For its part, when asked, I was told by the company’s lawyer, Lee Cheng (who masterminded NewEgg’s anti-patent troll strategy): “Of course no one, even blatant patent abusers and legal advantage takers, should be harassed or threatened. No one who threatens or harasses people or their families is a friend of either Mycroft AI or Josh Montgomery.” And it does seem like rather than insisting that Montgomery and Mycroft AI are sending the threatening emails and engaging in the other childish behavior, the real reason it happened is because a lot of people really hate patent shakedown efforts, and chose a poor way to express that. For VoiceTech and Tumey to try to work the refs early in the case by pinning bad behavior of third parties on Mycroft seems particularly distasteful.