Scott Harris is in a good mood. And why not? He's free of the confinements of big-firm lifestyle, and has emerged from the Fish litigation with his patents. (The firm had tried to assert control over those patents, arguing that it, and not Harris, owned the ideas cooked up while Harris worked at Fish.)
Harris and Memory Control Enterprises filed suit against eight GPS manufacturers last week, including Sony and Magellan Navigation, claiming their products infringe two Harris patents, 6,892,136 and 6,604,047, both named "Non real time traffic system for a navigator." The patents cover GPS systems that do clever things like calculate different routes based on likely driving times, taking traffic into account. The lawsuit was filed in the Northern District of Illinois (Chicago). [Complaint, PDF]
The two patents are quite similar; Harris filed the earlier one in 2001.
"When I thought of this and tried to put it into practice, it was pure science fiction," said Harris. Now, he says "a lot of companies are infringing my patent."
Harris declined to comment on how he thought of the ideas behind the patents, or how he put them into practice.
From the complaint, we learn a few new facts: Harris is acknowledged as a co-owner of Memory Control Enterprises, LLC. And, he has emerged from the litigation with his former firm with a patent stockpile that is large and growing, with 33 issued patents and about 80 pending applications. We also get reminded of a few old facts, like the fact that Harris has been inventing since age 12 and likes to teach kids about intellectual property.
According to Illinois corporate records, an MCE owner is Courtney Sherrer; neither Harris nor his attorney would say who Sherrer is or what her connection is to Harris or his patents. Her name came up briefly when Harris sent a subpoena to PTT blogger Rick Frenkel. Memory Control has a residential Chicago address, and last year sued Dell for infringing a different Harris patent. Harris' lawyer at Niro Scavone, Paul Vickrey, explained to me that Harris is the owner of the two patents at issue here, while MCE is the exclusive licensee.
Harris won't comment on future plans for his patents, but I will of course be on the lookout for more on the horizon. But it's clear he's now free to enforce his growing arsenal of patents. "I'm so glad Fish is off my back," said Harris. "I am just so glad that's behind me."
And if your car is fancy enough that its GPS can outsmart traffic... now you finally know who to send a thank-you card to. And, perhaps, a royalty check.
Photo: Mariordo / Wikimedia