The Herald, Sharon, Pa.

Community News Network

January 27, 2014

Google wins $1 victory against patent owner harassing customers

WASHINGTON — A $1 victory for Google could mean a whole lot more in savings for some of its customers.

A federal jury in Marshall, Texas, said Jan. 23 that patent-licensing company Beneficial Innovations breached a settlement agreement with Google by suing its customers. The jury awarded nominal damages of $1, which was all Google sought because its main goal was to make clear that its customers were covered by the license.

The case illustrates how technology companies are fighting patent-licensing firms that sue their customers. Companies such as Google and Adobe are increasingly challenging patents in courts and before the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, and are asking Congress to pass legislation to discourage lawsuits against the users of technology.

"We have the resources, we understand the technology, we know how our product is supposed to be used, and we're in the best position to defend our customers," said Dana Rao, associate general counsel at Adobe, which has sued patent- licensing companies on behalf of its customers.

Closely held Beneficial, incorporated in Nevada, filed patent-infringement suits against Google in 2007 and 2009, and the two sides reached an agreement in which Google paid for a license to the patents. That 2010 accord also covered customers using Google's DoubleClick advertising product including Autotrader.com and Demand Media, Mountain View, Calif.-based Google said.

"Beneficial went back on the terms of its own license agreement, pursuing our customers for simply using our licensed services," Matt Kallman, a Google spokesman, said in a statement. "This is a great outcome that the jury worked hard to get right."

The patents relate to playing games on a network and a networking system for advertising. Beneficial argued that the customers were only licensed under certain circumstances, which didn't apply in this case, according to court records. Beneficial lawyer Elizabeth DeRieux of Capshaw DeRieux in Gladewater, Texas, didn't provide a comment.

The tactic by technology companies of claiming customers are covered by a patent license has its limits. Apple sought to invalidate patents asserted against developers of applications for its iPhone and iPad tablet computer. The patent owner, Lodsys LLC, settled with all of Apple's customers, thus pushing Apple out of the case, and then proceeded against other developers.

Federal law says suits can be filed against anyone who makes, uses, sells or offers to sell a product that infringes a U.S. patent. Sometimes the product manufacturer can't be identified, isn't subject to the jurisdiction of U.S. courts because it only operates overseas, or the product is modified by the customer.

In those instances, users or sellers have to be sued, said Robert Stoll of Drinker Biddle in Washington, who formerly ran patent operations at the patent office.

It's only been since 2011 or so that firms who buy up patents to seek royalties, known by the pejorative "troll," have been going after the users of products made by well-known companies like Google and Adobe, Rao said.

The technology companies can be made to cover any lawsuit costs incurred by their customers, so resolving a single suit avoids multiple payouts. It also just makes good business sense.

"People want to make sure they've got their reputation maintained with their user community," Stoll said. "I wouldn't be buying their products if they didn't step in to protect me."

If a company proves its product doesn't infringe a patent, then all of its customers are off the hook. Should the company invalidate the patent, then anyone sued by the patent owner would be in the clear. Adobe has several trials scheduled for this year, Rao said.

"We'll use all of the tactics to try to take down the patent trolls," Rao said. "The problem is that, while we're able to step in and defend our customers in many district courts, the pace of these litigations is just growing."

Congress is considering legislation that would put suits against end users on hold until litigation is resolved between the manufacturer and patent owner.

In the meantime, more suits like those filed by Google and Adobe, could be in the offing.

"It makes good company sense," Stoll said.

1
Text Only
Community News Network
  • Dangerous Darkies Logo.png Redskins not the only nickname to cause a stir

    Daniel Snyder has come under fire for refusing to change the mascot of his NFL team, the Washington Redskins. The Redskins, however, are far from being the only controversial mascot in sports history.  Here is a sampling of athletic teams from all areas of the sports world that were outside the norm.

    July 28, 2014 3 Photos

  • 'Rebel' mascot rising from the dead

    Students and alumni from a Richmond, Va.-area high school are seeking to revive the school's historic mascot, a Confederate soldier known as the "Rebel Man," spurring debate about the appropriateness of public school connections to the Civil War and its icons.

    July 28, 2014

  • Fast food comes to standstill in China

    The shortage of meat is the result of China's latest food scandal, in which a Shanghai supplier allegedly tackled the problem of expired meat by putting it in new packaging and shipping it to fast-food restaurants around the country

    July 28, 2014

  • wd saturday tobias .jpg Stranger’s generosity stuns Ohio veteran

    Vietnam War veteran David A. Tobias was overwhelmed recently when a fellow customer at an OfficeMax store near Ashtabula, Ohio paid for a computer he was purchasing.

    July 28, 2014 1 Photo

  • Screen Shot 2014-07-28 at 1.33.11 PM.png VIDEO: High-dive accident caught on tape

    A woman at a water park in Idaho leaped off a 22-foot high dive platform, then tried to pull herself back up with frightening results. Fortunately, she escaped with only a cut to her finger.

    July 28, 2014 1 Photo

  • CATS-DOGS281.jpg Where cats are more popular than dogs in the U.S.-and all over the world

    We all know there are only two types of people in the world: cat people and dog people. But data from market research firm Euromonitor suggest that these differences extend beyond individual preferences and to the realm of geopolitics: it turns out there are cat countries and dog countries, too.

    July 28, 2014 1 Photo

  • How spy agencies keep their 'toys' from law enforcement

    A little over a decade ago, federal prosecutors used keystroke logging software to steal the encryption password of an alleged New Jersey mobster, Nicodemo Scarfo Jr., so they could get evidence from his computer to be used at his trial.

    July 25, 2014

  • Russia's war on McDonald's takes aim at the Filet-o-Fish

    Russia said earlier this week that it had no intention of answering Western sanctions by making it harder for Western companies to conduct business in Russia.
    But all bets are off, apparently, when you threaten the Russian waistline.

    July 25, 2014

  • cleaning supplies Don't judge mothers with messy homes

    I was building shelves in my garage when a neighbor girl, one of my 4-year-old daughter's friends, approached me and said, "I just saw in your house. It's pretty dirty. Norah's mommy needs to clean more."

    July 25, 2014 1 Photo

  • Arizona's prolonged lethal injection is fourth in U.S. this year

    Arizona's execution of double-murderer Joseph Wood marked the fourth time this year that a state failed to dispatch a convict efficiently, according to the Constitution Project, a bipartisan legal group.3

    July 24, 2014

  • Police Brutality screen shot. Technology plays key part in battling police brutality (VIDEO)

    Allegations of police brutality are nothing new -- as long as there has been law enforcement, citizens have registered claims that some officers cross the line. But in the last few years, the claims of excessive force are being corroborated with new technology from cell phone cameras, police dash-cams and surveillance videos. 

    July 24, 2014 1 Photo

  • Facebook continues moneymaking trend

    Facebook seems to have figured out - for now at least - the holy grail for all media right now: how to make money selling mobile ads.

    July 24, 2014

  • Has the ipad lost its swag?

    July 24, 2014

  • Almost half of America's obese youth don't know they're obese

    The good news is that after decades of furious growth, obesity rates finally seem to be leveling off in the U.S.. The bad news is that America's youth still appear to be dangerously unaware of the problem.

    July 23, 2014

  • Darth Vader is polling higher than all potential 2016 presidential candidates

    On the other hand, with a net favorability of -8, Jar Jar is considerably more popular than the U.S. Congress, which currently enjoys a net favorability rating of -65.

    July 23, 2014