Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Patent troll tracker top ten trolls of 2007

Patent troll tracker has also nominated their top ten patent trolls of 2007 The top three were:

3. Acacia. I didn't start tracking Acacia carefully until the summer. But still, on my blog I have reported on over two dozen lawsuits brought by Acacia this year, against more than 235 defendants. That's in addition to the over 200 lawsuits Acacia filed in previous years against hundreds and hundreds of defendants. And that's not including the two lawsuits (at least) Acacia has filed in December against 20 more defendants (yes, Acacia, I'm watching you). Acacia's business model, as a publicly traded company, is to accumulate patents and sue as many companies as possible in order to extract licenses. They have a market cap of over 275 million - that pays for a lot of lawsuits. Unlike other trolls, Acacia tends to not focus on one court in particular, although they have sampled the Eastern District of Texas more this year than in the past.

2. Erich Spangenberg. In any other year, Spangenberg would be #1. His subsidiaries, new ones seemingly being created every month, filed at least 15 lawsuits against over 200 defendants this year. Given Acacia sued at least 50 more defendants than Spangenberg in 2007, it was tempting to reverse their order. But Spangenberg - well, he just seems smarter than Acacia. For example, unlike Acacia, he won his trial ($36M from Hyundai) while Acacia lost its trial to Microsoft. Further, even though he sued less than Acacia, he seems to be more successful in resolving his cases (Acacia takes its cases to multiple Markman hearings taking years of litigation; Spangenberg's cases often seem to go away before there's a scheduling conference).

1. Global Patent Holdings. Sometimes quality is more important than quantity. Global Patent Holdings didn't sue as many defendants as Acacia or Erich Spangenberg this year. But their one patent claim -- claim 17 of the '341 patent -- is as disturbing as any patent being asserted by any non-practicing entity this year. Essentially, prior to the reexamination, GPH asserted that anyone with a JPEG on a website infringed their patent. Despite the fact that all 16 claims of the original patent have been finally cancelled, the one much-amended claim is still being asserted by those representing GPH to cover any website with a JPEG. GPH wasted no time after the reexamination certificate issued, suing 16 companies in 3 lawsuits. The amazing thing is the number of potential defendants. One report I saw had there being 100 million websites. Even if you assume only 40 million of them are in the US (a conservative number, if you ask me), and that only 10% of those websites have JPGs (again, an extremely conservative number), there are 4 million potential defendants. Even at Niro's published minimum of $125,000 per defendant, that's half a trillion dollars. Of course, not that many defendants will be sued, and this patent will surely be challenged, but this amazing statistic and the ramp-up of litigation is enough to earn Global Patent Holdings my seal of Patent Troll of the Year."

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