A patent troll who has been suing hotels and coffeehouses which offer wireless internet for their customers has won their first round in court, with a judge in the case throwing out defendants claims that what the company is doing is nothing short of racketeering. Why does this matter to you? Because, rather than suing the manufacturers of wireless devices, the trolls are suing small businesses which provide internet to their customers; businesses that can’t afford to fight these claims, like hotels, restaurants and coffeehouses.
Cisco Systems, Motorola and Netgear had banded together, seeking to shut down the patent trolling company, claiming that the campaign was a violation of the RICO law. Unfortunately, the judge ruled that patent troll “Innovatio’s campaign is protected petition activity under the First Amendment.” Now the company has given a large number of businesses notice that it plans to ask for judgements against them of $5,000 each.
The Obama administration proposed a patent reform package, but the passing of these reforms is far from a sure thing, and might not even apply in this case.
I have several questions for you:
- As a shop owner, would you be willing to pay a $5,000 fee* to be able to offer internet to your customers?
- As a customer, would you be as likely to buy coffee from a shop which doesn’t offer internet?
If you are not familiar with “patent trolling” the latest episode of This American Life is just for you – “When Patents Attack… Part Two!”
*That appears to be the fee they are going for, though they have settled for less in some cases