Patent consultancy Ocean Tomo wants to convince big companies that its patent auctions will help them deal with the problem of patent trolls, or at least lower the cost. Might be a tough sell right now, though, since a patent bought at Ocean Tomo has just been used to demand royalty payments from 13 companies that use—drum roll—social recommendation systems. "If you like X, you might like Y," and don't forget to send a check to Quito Enterprises, LLC. What?
- Quito Enterprises LLC bought patent 5,890,152 at last April's Ocean Tomo patent auction for $1.07 million. Quito, a company that maintains a Delaware address that seems to include a few different law offices, used that patent to file an infringement lawsuit against 13 companies on Dec. 30. All defendants are companies that offer some type of social recommendation system. The patent, filed in 1996 and issued in 1999, describes a system of offering users media files based on their personal tastes and preferences. Defendants accused of infringing the '152 patent include old-school media companies, Internet heavies, Internet radio sites, and one pure social recommendation engine: Netflix, Amazon, Yahoo, RealNetworks, last.fm, Pandora Media, Slacker Inc., Veoh, Hulu, NBC Universal, CBS, News Corp., and Strands, Inc. Quito filed suit in Miami and is represented by Florida personal injury lawyers Philip Holden and Alex Alvarez, Heninger Garrison & Davis of Birmingham, as well as John Ward and David M. Hill from the very active New York patent shop of Ward & Olivo, likely a key player here. Who exactly is Quito Enterprises? Not to give anyone ideas, but some state record offices are not as transparent as they should be... But I look forward to learning more about Quito shortly. Quito Enterprises, LLC v. Netflix, Inc. et al, 08-cv-23543, S.D. Florida. [complaint on Justia]
In my last post, I covered new litigation stemming from Scott Harris patents, all handled by Ray Niro. But Niro didn't just work with Harris patents in December. He's also representing:
- 21 srl, an Italian patent-holding company asserting 7,340,451, which was issued to computer scientist Giovanni Sacco in March. On Dec. 23, 21 srl sued Apple, OfficeMax, Walgreen's, and CDW Corp. for infringing Prof. Sacco's "Dynamic Taxonomy Process," by using their websites: apple.com, officemax.com, walgreens.com, and cdw.com. 21 srl wants royalty payments but doesn't ask for an injunction, and it says the defendants had knowledge of the '451 patent. 21 srl v. Apple Inc. et al., 08-cv-7350, N.D. Illinois. [Justia]
- MSTG, a South Korean corporation that is asserting three patents against BlackBerry manufacturer Research in Motion. Patents Nos. 5,920,551, 6,219,374, and 7,151,756, all originated at the Electronics and Telecommunications Research Institute of the Republic of Korea and were transferred to MSTG. MSTG says it notified RIM about the patents in July, and alleges willfullness in its lawsuit, filed Dec. 30. MSTG, Inc. v. Research in Motion, 08-cv-7411, N.D. Illinois. [Justia]
- Cygnus Systems, Inc. is based at a residential address outside Phoenix, although it used to be based in Indiana. (Not to be confused with this Cygnus Systems, based in Michigan.) It filed suit on Dec. 23 alleging that Microsoft, Apple, and Google are all infringing patent 7,346,850, which the company filed for in 2001 and received in 2008. State records indicate that the company is still an Indiana corporation, but with an Arizona address (not an Arizona corporation as the complaint states). Cygnus is apparently still controlled by owner-inventor Gregory Swartz. PC World wrote up the Cygnus v. Microsoft case on Dec. 24, followed by Ars Technica and CNET. Cygnus Systems v. Microsoft et al., 08-cv-02337, D. Arizona. [Justia]
- EZ4Media, Inc., which sued Apple on Dec. 16. (That's three lawsuits against Apple within 14 days in December.) This is the third patent lawsuit filed by EZ4Media, a Nevada corporation based in a Chicago suburb and controlled by one John Lichter. It's asserting four purchased patents: 7,130,616, 7,142,934, 7,142,935, and 7,167,765. All four patents were initially assigned to Cypress, Calif.-based Universal Electronics, before EZ4Media acquired the patents in April. EZ4Media v. Apple Computer, 08-cv-07192, N.D. Illinois.
It's interesting to see which lawsuits get noticed in the tech press & blogs and which ones don't. Cygnus v. Microsoft got a fair bit of attention, but suits from much more wide-ranging patent enforcers sometimes tend to get missed. I'll cover a couple of those in an upcoming post. Those video game lawsuits sure get a lot of attention though, so let's get one of those in before I go... (Not a Niro Scavone client).
- Worlds.com, which had been rattling its patent saber at the video game world for a few weeks, finally sent it into a tizzy by filing a lawsuit against South Korea-based NCSoft, the company that makes City of Heroes and several other massive multiplayer online games. Worlds.com's lawyer says the 7,181,690 patent in question covers "many ways of managing avatars in the virtual world," and we can expect that this E.D. Texas lawsuit may just be the beginning. Worlds.com is working with General Patent Corporation, a patent enforcement company that issued a press release about Worlds.com v. NCSoft on New Year's Eve. Skepticism about the novelty of this invention is being expressed by game enthusiasts and cranks alike: see Techdirt, Overlawyered, and The Register. Worlds.com v. NCSoft, 08-cv-00508, E.D. Texas (Tyler).
Illustration: Christie's auction room in London. T. Rowlandson and A. Pugin, via Wikimedia