The Union Recorder

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
Poll
AP Video
Death Penalty Expert: 'This is a Turning Point' House Committee at Odds Over Obama Lawsuit Raw: MH17 Victim's Bodies Arrive in Netherlands Raw: UN School Used As Shelter Hit by Tank Shell Raw: Gunmen Attack Iraqi Prison Convoy Plane Leaves Ukraine With More Crash Victims The Rock Brings Star Power to Premiere Raw: Families Travel to Taiwan Plane Crash Site Arizona Execution Takes Almost Two Hours Gen. Odierno Discusses Ukraine, NATO at Forum Gaza Fighting Rages Amid Cease-Fire Efforts Mint Gives JFK Coin a Face-lift Creative Makeovers for Ugly Cellphone Towers Ariz. Inmate Dies 2 Hours After Execution Began Crash Kills Teen Pilot Seeking World Record LeBron James Sends Apology Treat to Neighbors Raw: Funeral for Man Who Died in NYPD Custody Migrants Back in Honduras After US Deports Israeli American Reservist Torn Over Return
Facebook
Twitter Updates
Follow us on twitter
Parade
Magazine

Click HERE to read all your Parade favorites including Hollywood Wire, Celebrity interviews and photo galleries, Food recipes and cooking tips, Games and lots more.
Stocks
NDN Video
Facebook Is Officially A Mobile Company 'Fifty Shades of Grey': Watch the Super Sexy First Trailer Now! Swiftair Loses Contact With Air Algerie Aircraft Diamond Stone, Malik Newman, Josh Jackson and others showcase talent Free Arturo - The World's Saddest Polar Bear A Look Back at Batman On Film Through The Years LeBron James -- Dropped $2k On Cupcake Apology ... Proceeds To Benefit Charity Snoop Dogg Says He Smoked Weed at the White House Raw: Fight Breaks Out in Ukraine Parliament Chris Pratt Interrupts Interview To French Braid Intern's Hair Shirtless Super Mario Balotelli Dances While Ironing - @TheBuzzeronFOX Whoa! Watch "Housewives" Star Do the Unthinkable LeBron apologizes to neighbors with cupcakes Justin Bieber In Calvin Klein Underwear Shoot Samsung Pre-Trolls The IPhone 6 With New Ad Jimmy Kimmel Introduces His Baby Girl Swim Daily, Nina Agdal in the Cook Islands Guilty Dog Apologizes to Baby for Stealing Her Toy Prince George Turns 1 and is Already a Trendsetter Train Collides With Semi Truck Carrying Lighter Fluid