Rackspace Helps Kill A Patent Troll: Rotating Your Smartphone Is No Longer Infringing

from the bogus-patents dept

Over the last few years it's been great to see companies like Newegg and Rackspace decide that they're not going to give in to bogus patent troll lawsuits. As we've discussed, it's almost always easier, faster and cheaper to just settle and pay up whatever the troll is asking for. That's part of why trolling works. Fighting a patent lawsuit -- even a totally bogus one (i.e., not infrigning) -- on a clearly invalid patent will still cost many hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of dollars. If the troll is offering to settle for tens of thousands of dollars, many, many companies will do the obvious short-term cost-benefit analysis and settle. It's hard to directly fault them for this -- but it only makes the problem worse for everyone else. Not only does it fund the patent trolls to keep suing others, often they'll use some of that money to buy more bogus patents and shake down companies over that new ones as well. On top of that, settling patent threats just puts a big "sucker" sign on your company, meaning that more trolls will start circling. Making a stand and saying that you will not compromise or deal with trolls actually helps in the long run by scaring off some trolls. Both Newegg and Rackspace have been getting a lot of publicity (and goodwill) for their anti-troll efforts.

Rackspace has successfully defeated a patent troll called Rotatable Technologies by having its patent (US Patent 6,326,978) invalidated:
Rotatable owned a patent that it claimed covers the screen rotation technology that comes standard in just about every smartphone. You know, when you flip your device sideways and the screen shifts orientation from portrait mode to landscape mode? Like nearly all the apps in the Apple and Android app stores, Rackspace uses standard functionality provided by Apple’s libraries and Android open source software to provide this display feature in our mobile cloud applications.

Rotatable sued us and immediately asked for $75,000 to go away. We refused. And we fought. It’s Rackspace policy to not pay off patent trolls, even if it costs us more to fight. Eventually Rotatable offered to just walk away – but we refused again. Just as we promised last year, we challenged the patent and the USPTO invalidated it.
As Rackspace says, the company is now "an ex-patent troll." Kudos to Rackspace for fighting and winning, rather than giving in to the troll.
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Filed Under: patent troll, patents, rotatable screens
Companies: newegg, rackspace


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  1. identicon
    Richard Falk, 7 Nov 2014 @ 12:01pm

    More Common Is Non-Infringement

    The more common situation is where the patent is valid but there is no infringement. That is a more expensive situation to win because one cannot stay the case and invalidate the patent at the USPTO and one cannot use Section 101 arguments to end the case early. Instead, one must go through at least core discovery and pay experts as well as lawyers and this is all very expensive. You can try for summary judgement, but if in the East District of Texas that is rarely granted or even considered.

    https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2014/07/why-do-patent-trolls-go-texas-its-not-bbq

    So you are most likely required to go to trial which is always risky even if the facts are in your favor, especially for more technical patents. And then even if you win you would not normally be able to get fees shifted nor obtain sanctions absent litigation misconduct.

    http://sites.google.com/site/271patentblog/Home/DiagnosticSystemsvSymantec.pdf?attredirec ts=0

    Later cases (e.g. Marctec, Higmark, Raylon) would uphold §285 fee shifting or Rule 11 sanctions but the shell company subsidiaries of the PAEs would simply go bust since they had no revenues and the only asset was the patent being asserted. Even legislation proposing joining the real parties of interest will be circumvented by setting up foreign subsidiaries creating a jurisdictional corporate veil.

    The only truly effective method to stopping abuse is to hold the attorneys jointly and severally liable. Attorneys are the entrée into the legal system and should be held responsible for their conduct. As stated in Eon-Net v. Flagstar Bancorp, "But an attorney, in addition to his obligation to his client, also has an obligation to the court and should not blindly follow the client’s interests if not supported by law and facts."

    This is much more than a patent litigation abuse issue, but is a problem with civil litigation abuse in general. Read the following where trial lawyers admit this abuse:

    http://www.abajournal.com/files/Survey_Press_Release_Final.pdf

    If one narrowly tries to fix this problem for patents only, then like the game of Whac-A-Mole® the problem will simply pop up somewhere else:

    http://mcsmith.blogs.com/eastern_district_of_texas/files/IP.pdf
    http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/pape rs.cfm?abstract_id=1878966

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