As Cloud IPQ will continue to demonstrate, a growing but often overlooked trend of NPE patent litigations against cloud computing providers and users has emerged in recent years. While many NPEs target big technology companies like Apple, Google and Microsoft, Uniloc has cast a wider net that includes health service providers, gaming companies and software developers. In less than two years, Uniloc has filed 59 district court cases against 39 defendants in the cloud computing space. The patents asserted relate to cloud software and platforms capable of remote network access and management in fields ranging from business management, software and game security, identity management, critical infrastructure security, and IP rights management. The lawsuits target both cloud computing providers (e.g., Nexon, Blackboard, Netsuite, Nutanix, etc.) and users (e.g., Riot Games, AthenaHealth, H&R Block, etc.).
Out of the 59 patent cases involving nine cloud computing patents (none of which has even reached the stage of setting a trial date) over 45% have already terminated, with the longest case lasting less than a year and a half. With two exceptions, all of the terminated cases ended in likely settlements, while two cases filed against ADP and Amazon ended in 101 invalidity judgments knocking out five patents. In fact, four of the five patents were invalidated just last week in an Eastern District of Texas ruling. Those four patents are asserted in 38 of the 59 district court cases, of which 16 were settled before this recent invalidity judgment. And for all 59 Uniloc cases and patents, only 13 IPRs and three declaratory judgment actions were filed. Of those 13 IPRs, only three have reached an institution decision, and none has reached a final resolution.
For Uniloc, this is a tried and true pattern. While Uniloc started off as a research and development firm with some software products, today it appears they have no products for sale. Uniloc’s earlier website with product information has been disabled, and the current website is empty (See below). Uniloc has also acquired a large number of patent portfolios through assignments. In fact, Uniloc is one of the top patent buyers in the U.S. market in recent years, earning the distinction as the fourth highest patent buyer in the second quarter of 2017.
Uniloc’s Old Website
Uniloc’s New Website
Much like the NPE that it is, Uniloc drastically increased the number of district court cases it filed in the last few years. Between 2012 and 2017, including the cases above involving cloud computing, Uniloc filed a total of 310 patent cases. Only one of those cases has gone to trial, and only five have had infringement or invalidity findings. Not surprisingly, 96% of those cases were filed in the Eastern District of Texas (a known favorite of NPEs until TC Heartland).
In the last two years alone, Uniloc filed over 160 district court cases, three quarters of which were terminated within a year (most likely per settlement). This is over half of the patent cases Uniloc has filed since it came into being in 1999. This trend is on par with the current litigation tactics of NPEs, namely, mass litigation filings, multile patents asserted, and quick settlements. And now cloud computing providers and users have joined the ranks of the many technology companies and fields targeted by NPEs like Uniloc.