Patent Trolls Play On

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The gathering storm of potential legislation against Patent Assertion Entities, otherwise known as patent trolls, has been well reported, but what are the trolls doing in response?  In many instances, they have continued to do what they have always done – sue and threaten to sue.  Here is a quick summary of recent patent troll activity even as the drumbeat for legislative reform grows louder. 

  • Intellectual Ventures has continued to assert patents claiming core technology used in the banking industry. Since May it has filed infringement lawsuits against leading U.S. banks, such as Commerce Bancshares, Capital One Financial Corp., Bank of America Corp., BBVA Compass Bancshares, Fifth Third Bancorp, JPMorgan Chase & Co., PNC Financial Services Group and First National Bank of Omaha, asserting claims alleged to cover basic banking functions and features used in ATM and online-banking transactions, including cryptography methods used to conform to security standards.
  • Smart Search Concepts LLC, has continued to file claims against major retailers, such as Macy’s, Kohl’s, Gap, J.C. Penney, Nieman Marcus and Nordstrom, asserting that the retailers’ websites infringe patents on “search-on-the-fly” technology because the sites let consumers search for merchandise with keywords, drop-down menus and database queries that allow users to refine their searches in multiple steps.
  • Treehouse Avatar Technologies has sent demand letters to several independent game developers alleging that they have violated a patent that allegedly covers creating a character online, and having the game log how many times a particular character trait was chosen.
  • Cascades Computer Innovation, the latest venture of Anthony Brown, a former Jenner & Block partner who was once called “the original patent troll”, has ratcheted up its fight against several major smartphone manufacturers.  After Judge Kennelly of the Northern District of Illinois rejected a motion to dismiss on standing, Cascade called the defense arguments “frivolous” and asked “Who’s unethical?”  No doubt, Cascade will be going full speed ahead with this litigation.

As previously reported here, at least one well known troll has backed off.  MPHS, the troll behind the attempts to seek licenses from businesses that use a scanner/copier connected to an email system, has recently sent out letters advising its former targets that several of the scanner/copier manufacturers had filed requests to review the patent at the Patent Office and that they would be standing down until the conclusion of the review.