Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Cisco goes after patent trolls, which it says targets customers (not just other inventors)

Ashby Jones has a major story in the Monday November 12, 2012 Wall Street Journal in the Marketplace section, “Cisco calls patent trolls racketeers,”.  The WSJ online blog (paywall access) entry is “On Cisco’s novel, aggressive approach to patent trolls”, link here

Cisco is suing  Innovatio IP Ventures, claiming that Innovatio buys up patents and then (in a manner reminiscent of Righthaven suing bloggers over frivolous copyright claims for newspaper articles it had bought) sends threatening letters to customers of patented technology (often coffee shops, restaurants, and hotels, especially smaller independent ones that may not have the pockets to defend themselves). I was not aware that customers could be held liable under patent law. It does seem that most of these customers are franchise-operated retail companies.  
Cisco is also suing Canadian company Mosaid Technologies for paying witnesses for testimony and documents.

Cisco has two co-plaintiffs, Betgear and Motorola.

The UK Telegraph has a story (by Richard Chirgwin) emphasizing that Innovatio is targeting WifFi users, link here

The University of California Patent Examiner has a story about the spread of suits against larger hotel chains, here

However, IP Watchdog has an article (March 21, 2012) in which Ray Niro is interviewed, and provides a somewhat convoluted explanation of Innovatio’s rights, link here

There seems to be an issue in the way hotel and restaurant chains license WiFi technology to individual franchise owners. The outcome of this battle could conceivably affect the availability of cost-effective or secure WiFi to personal and business travelers, and that becomes important to traveling consumers. 
The TED channel on YouTube has a story by Drew Curtis on “How I Beat a Patent Troll”.

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