from the virtually-fucking-patent-trolls dept
Back in 2010, we wrote about the ridiculous patent thicket in “teledildonics” — better known as internet-connected sex toys. A few different companies had been claiming patents on teledildonics and some patent lawsuits had broken out over it. One of the patents we covered, US Patent 6,368,268, was held at the time by New Frontier Technologies, for a “method and device for interactive virtual control of sexual aids using digital computer networks.”
Earlier this year, however, a company named TZU popped up with that same patent and sued a bunch of companies, who offered various internet-connected sex toys. But, it also sued Kickstarter, because one of the products it was suing, the “Frebble” (a device for virtual long-distance “hand holding”) had launched via a Kickstarter campaign. Blaming Kickstarter for that was a long shot, and Kickstarter made things tougher for TZU by actually fighting back.
Oh, and by refusing to walk away and be silent when offered the chance.
As Joe Mullin at Ars Technica writes, TZU ended up walking away entirely after Kickstarter refused to sign a non-disclosure agreement to hide a $0 “settlement.”
Kickstarter refused to pay a “nuisance” settlement demand, preferring instead to litigate the case on principle. On the same day Kickstarter was going to file its response to the lawsuit, TZU offered a “walkaway” settlement in which Kickstarter would pay it nothing, as long as it signed a confidentiality agreement. Again, Kickstarter refused.
“This is a standard patent troll suit, the kind that, unfortunately, we have faced in the past,” said Kickstarter general counsel Michal Rosenn in an interview with Ars. “We?re fortunate to be in a position where we can afford to take these suits to court.”
Once TZU and its lawyers at the Southern California-based Cotman IP group realized Kickstarter fully intended to fight it out in court, it dropped the lawsuit. The case has been dismissed with prejudice, meaning it can’t be re-filed.
Kudos to Rosenn and Kickstarter for standing up against this patent troll, and for using the Drew Curtis playbook, which includes fighting back, making it clear you’d rather spend money on lawyers than give a penny to the troll and, most importantly, refusing to agree to any sort of non-disclosure agreement when the troll tries to run away. This information needs to be public and it’s nice to see Kickstarter take a stand. It would have been easy for the company to just sign the NDA and walk away, but then TZU could pretend that it had “won” a settlement from the company. It looks like NewEgg’s “Don’t Settle With Patent Trolls” concept is catching on.