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Patent Trolls Target Small East Texas Companies 281

Posted by kdawson
from the patently-absurd dept.
An anonymous reader writes "In a sign that patent trolls are getting desperate to keep their cases in East Texas — long known as the friendliest venue for their claims — some have taken to suing tiny, no-name companies that are run by East Texas residents. The hope is that, if at least one defendant is located in East Texas, the judge will keep the entire case there. Nate Neel, a Longview, Texas resident with a small open source software company called CitiWare, was sued by Bedrock Computer Technologies in June despite (he claims) having no customers or other meaningful operations of any kind. In response, Mr. Neel has posted a strongly worded letter to Bedrock's attorneys on his Web site. It will be interesting to see how East Texas judges respond to this abuse of process perpetrated against their own residents."
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Patent Trolls Target Small East Texas Companies

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  • by TubeSteak (669689) on Friday July 24, 2009 @09:19AM (#28805991) Journal

    I'm going to go ahead and point out that repeatedly dropping the F-bomb is not "strongly worded" it is "unprofessional".
    Not to mention the lack of spell check.

    It sucks what's being done to the guy, but a little professionalism goes a long way.
    And like anything else on the internet, his poorly spelled "FUCK YOU" is always going to be associated with his name.

    • by amiga3D (567632) on Friday July 24, 2009 @09:24AM (#28806041)
      Heh...well maybe that's why he's not in business anymore. I think maybe they pissed him off. Sooner or later if these trolls keep suing everyday people they're going to run across one that's not wrapped too tight. It's only a matter of time before someone shows up at one of these lawyer's offices with a pump shotgun and sprays the place down. Keep fucking with everybody and the odds go up.
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by lordofthechia (598872)

        Ah yes, the law of averages:

        http://plif.courageunfettered.com/archive/wc210.gif [courageunfettered.com]

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by drinkypoo (153816)

          A 20x20 pixel white or perhaps transparent shim. Yes, that certainly was illustrative. Sooner or later, someone will post a link to an image that is totally useless. Or are you just collecting IPs?

      • by couchslug (175151)

        "It's only a matter of time before someone shows up at one of these lawyer's offices with a pump shotgun and sprays the place down. Keep fucking with everybody and the odds go up."

        Shotguns don't "spray" very well. Center of mass, people, center of mass.

        • by lorenlal (164133)

          If you really want to do some damage to a few targets, you're better off with a slug anyway. There might be innocents nearby, and buckshot isn't as useful from across the office.

          If you're looking for a good spray, a fully automatic (slightly modded AK) would be much better.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by fuscata (1406613)
      Agreed, and I'd say he's setting himself up for a not-so-frivolous defamation suit.
    • by Viol8 (599362) on Friday July 24, 2009 @09:26AM (#28806065)

      Why respond professionally to something that is clearly a scam? He's not the CEO of Google with shareholders to worry about FFS, he's just some guy who had a little company and closed it down and is now doing a day job. So he said "fuck". Well stop the press!

    • by hackus (159037) on Friday July 24, 2009 @09:38AM (#28806217) Homepage

      Well I disagree here.

      Professionalism means conduct in exchange for service or work completed.

      All he got in the mail was a lawsuit notice.

      Professionalism has nothing to do about this whole matter.

      Might I point out that the other party of this dispute TRULY DOES lack professionalism as well as ethics.

      Simply because you wrap it all up in nice grammar, letterhead and mail it to someone does not make it professional or ethical.

      -Hack

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      there comes a point where you just have to tell someone to go fuck themselves. no amount of chivalry would change anything in a case such as this.

    • by ari_j (90255) on Friday July 24, 2009 @09:51AM (#28806371)
      The other part of the story is that his letter is going to end up in front of the federal judge. He might be entitled to sanctions to compensate him for the wasted time and expense in responding to a lawsuit that was brought against him with no basis in reality, but federal judges tend to disdain juvenile responses to serious matters. Like many things in life, there is a right way and a wrong way to respond to a ridiculous lawsuit - this guy chose the wrong way and it will most likely end up costing him.
      • by jedidiah (1196)

        Even in Texas, a judge is probably going to be bright enough to know that
        he should treat responses written by lawyers differently than those written
        by some working stiff.

        • by tlhIngan (30335)

          Even in Texas, a judge is probably going to be bright enough to know that
          he should treat responses written by lawyers differently than those written
          by some working stiff.

          True, but a judge is also smart to realize that the respondent isn't a child, and should have the appropriate literacy skills to write a formal letter using formal language conventions. It won't be as lawyerly as a response written by a lawyer, so it may diverge from "proper" legal language (e.g., emotional appeals may creep in) as well as

          • by ari_j (90255)
            Exactly. Use words like "frivolous," not words like "fuck" and "slim[e]." If you are able to tell the judge that the case against you is frivolous in a cogent, adult manner, he might actually listen. If your response is littered with profanity and personal attacks on others, he likely won't. Having the judge listen to you is usually a good thing.
      • by mcvos (645701)

        The other part of the story is that his letter is going to end up in front of the federal judge. He might be entitled to sanctions to compensate him for the wasted time and expense in responding to a lawsuit that was brought against him with no basis in reality, but federal judges tend to disdain juvenile responses to serious matters.

        What's serious about this lawsuit? It's completely ridiculous. That's not serious, that's laughable.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by ari_j (90255)
          If you are sued and you believe the lawsuit is ridiculous, you still have to handle it seriously. Failure to do so most often results in it becoming a more serious matter than it needs to be, with you fined or jailed for contempt as a bad outcome or having a default judgment entered against you as a "good" outcome.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        Like many things in life, there is a right way and a wrong way to respond to a ridiculous lawsuit

        The "right way" being to craft a stately letter filled with "professional" prose, and thus confering not a small amount of legitimacy to the actions of these blackmailers. By doing so, the responder tacitly recognises the worthiness of the claims to be heard in court and dives headfirst into the molasses of rules, traditions and procedures of the legal system, where cunning lawyers have the upper hand.

        Better to

        • Re: (Score:2, Troll)

          by ari_j (90255)

          Like many things in life, there is a right way and a wrong way to respond to a ridiculous lawsuit

          The "right way" being to craft a stately letter filled with "professional" prose, and thus confering not a small amount of legitimacy to the actions of these blackmailers. By doing so, the responder tacitly recognises the worthiness of the claims to be heard in court and dives headfirst into the molasses of rules, traditions and procedures of the legal system, where cunning lawyers have the upper hand.

          Better to reject their claims as contemptible nonsense, and say as much to the court when (if) the matter is finally heard. Remember, they're the ones who have to prove that you've done something wrong. It's not your job to prove you haven't.

          Please do not follow this advice. Being a melodramatic child is never a good idea. There is a proper way to tell the court that the allegations against you are ridiculous and don't deserve to waste the court's time. This guy's approach is pretty much the opposite of that. It gets him on the bad side of the court without accomplishing anything.

    • Indeed. I'd be pissed off too, but all this guy has achieved is to make a fool of himself. There is a classy way to put someone in his place which will earn you respect from others, and this isn't it.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by orsty3001 (1377575)
      I miss spelled fuck you onetime and never to this day have been able to live it down. You'd never guess there would be so many grammar Nazis in Sunday School.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Oswald (235719)
      Seriously. I was on the verge of googling his (repeated) use of the word slim to see what hip, young lingo I needed to add to my repertoire. Then I realized he just can't spell "slime".
      • by schon (31600)

        I was on the verge of googling his (repeated) use of the word slim to see what hip, young lingo I needed to add to my repertoire.

        Dude, that is *so* slim!

      • Publik educashun, didn't you lissen? The word slime has a silent e, so you can omit the letter! You wouldn't want to think he was saying slim-ee (spelled slimey, a completely different word which crosses over from a noun to adjective!!)
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by mcgrew (92797)

      Not to mention the lack of spell check.

      Sew true, eye all ways ewes a spill chucker!

    • by ari_j (90255) on Friday July 24, 2009 @10:28AM (#28806785)
      Precisely. I am a connoisseur of strongly-worded letters, and his is not one. A strongly-worded letter strikes fear into the heart of the recipient using only on-topic attacks of the recipient's argument itself. Ad hominem attacks always have the effect of derogating your own position by the implied concession that your opponent's argument is too iron-clad for you to respond to it directly. There is a time and place for ad hominem attacks, but at least spell them right.

      Picture yourself as the judge. There are two people in front of you, neither of whom you have met. One of them says, "He infringed my patent by operating a business that manufactured millions of units of products utilizing the claimed technique." The other one only says, "Fuck you, slim[e]!" Right off the bat, you are going to be biased against the guy who can't be bothered to explain why he didn't infringe the patent. He just looks like a puerile, sophomoric idiot.

      Now, try it again. This time, however, the second guy says, "The suggestion that I infringed his patent is almost too absurd to form a response. Not only was I never in a manufacturing business, but no activity I have ever undertaken has utilized the technique claimed in the patent. Even the slightest bit of factual research could have reached that conclusion prior to bringing this lawsuit against me." Now, the first guy is the one who looks like a lazy buffoon.

      And that's how you word things strongly. And, if you really want to have some fun, use the puntacular phrase "patently ridiculous." Judges love puns!*

      * - Well, not really. Some do, but only if you use them judiciously.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by sosume (680416)

      He's not in business anymore. Therefore he is replying as a person and not as a business. No need for professionalism, unless there is some rule that persons have to communicate like lawyers and businesses.

      • by TubeSteak (669689)

        He's not in business anymore. Therefore he is replying as a person and not as a business. No need for professionalism, unless there is some rule that persons have to communicate like lawyers and businesses.

        Anyone with a job is "in business".
        Some legal letterhead and a motion to dismiss is all it takes to make the case go away.
        In the meantime, this guy could have worked his victimhood positively.
        Instead, anyone googling the case will inevitably end up reading his poorly spelt and argued rant.

        Off the top of my head, two high profile examples of "Victimhood 101: Doing it right" are nissan.com [digest.com] and Ernie Ball [cnet.com]

  • Dog Food (Score:5, Insightful)

    by siloko (1133863) on Friday July 24, 2009 @09:21AM (#28806017)
    Brings a whole new meaning to the expression 'Eat your own dog food!'. I guess after they have finished consuming their local businesses and the employment rate plummets then maybe the local legislators will think again about supporting this kind of bullshit.
    • Re:Dog Food (Score:5, Informative)

      by Dachannien (617929) on Friday July 24, 2009 @09:26AM (#28806059)

      This doesn't really have anything to do with local legislators. Patent disputes are usually handled in US District Court, meaning that the reason why the Eastern District of Texas has been so friendly to patent trolls is because an unusual number of federal judges in that district are unusually biased in favor of plaintiffs in patent disputes.

      • by xgr3gx (1068984)

        East Texas laws need to be locked down to prevent the BS from happening.

        • by Jaysyn (203771)

          Pretty sure you mean federal laws there..

          • Re:Dog Food (Score:5, Insightful)

            by xgr3gx (1068984) on Friday July 24, 2009 @09:54AM (#28806395) Homepage Journal

            I guess I don't get the whole thing with filing patent cases in East Texas.
            A poster a few comments above said Federal Judges in E. Texas seem to favor patent plaintiffs.
            Seems odd - somebody has got to be seeding the panel of judges, and it has to be for the purpose of making money on patent law suits.
            It wouldn't shock me if some law firm was giving huge election contributions to biased politicians to get these biased judged appointed.
            Follow the money - and you'll probably find out why E. Texas is how it is in regards to patent law.

            • Thank you. I was wondering the same thing. There are two possibilities. The one you suggested, where some group (probably a law firm) is getting people appointed to the East Texas District Court in order to continue this pattern.
              The second is that there is a small group of long serving judges in the East Texas District Court who have bias in favor of patent plaintiffs. If it is the second, a list of these judges should be published and Congress should be encouraged to impeach one or more of them. May I su
            • by ISoldat53 (977164)
              The summary assumes that Judges reflect the mores of the community where they live. This is not the case. Once Judges ascend to the bench they are answerable to no one.
            • Re:Dog Food (Score:5, Insightful)

              by Dachannien (617929) on Friday July 24, 2009 @01:10PM (#28809135)

              There are dozens of districts in the federal court system. Just by random chance, it's fairly likely that at least one of them will be off to the side of the bell curve, and once patent plaintiffs noticed which one(s), they started trying to take advantage of it.

          • Re:Dog Food (Score:4, Insightful)

            by ari_j (90255) on Friday July 24, 2009 @09:56AM (#28806417)
            I wouldn't worry about it too much. This entire comment thread is based on patently false notions of the legal system underlying this situation. First you have the suggestion that local legislators are in favor of patent troll lawsuits. Then, when that's explained to be wrong, you have the suggestion that 'East Texas laws' (whatever those are - East Texas is not its own legislative jurisdiction with its own laws, it's just a federally-created judicial district for the federal courts) should be changed to stop this from happening. I hesitate to imagine what ridiculous idea is going to come up in response to your correction. We can only hope that it's a Godwin-approved car analogy.
  • Amazing patent (Score:5, Interesting)

    by paulhar (652995) on Friday July 24, 2009 @09:25AM (#28806053)

    Having just read the patent claims it seems that this patent is on the ability for a linked list to be cleared of expired items. Truly a ground breaking, patent worthy invention!

    • by Drakkenmensch (1255800) on Friday July 24, 2009 @09:42AM (#28806273)
      Your comment just violated my sarcasm patent for "making a comment worded in such a way that it sounds positive while still carrying an implied negative meaning opposite of the actual wording used."
    • Too bad it won't stand the Blinski test....
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by budgenator (254554)

      Yes it sounded to me like they patented Lisp and it's garbage collection method. Seems like they would be vulnerable to art priori and lack of novelty.

    • I never thought I'd see a patent granted on stuff we pretty much learn in the first few introductory programming courses at $university.

      Though they threw hashing into the mix... I'm not really sure how that's relevant to linked lists unless they're actually describing a hash table with chained buckets with on-the-fly removal of expired items. Which makes me wonder, how would you go about removing items in a manner that can't be described as "on-the-fly"? You'd have to go out of your way to ridiculous leng

  • by jvkjvk (102057)

    funny how things work out, isn't it?

  • Hopefully now that actual citizens of East Texas are being targeted, the citizens will start to vote these types of judges out of office.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by russotto (537200)

      Hopefully now that actual citizens of East Texas are being targeted, the citizens will start to vote these types of judges out of office.

      -1, Did Not Do The Research

      Federal judges are appointed for life, not elected.

      • by Culture20 (968837)

        Hopefully now that actual citizens of East Texas are being targeted, the citizens will start to vote these types of judges out of office.

        -1, Did Not Do The Research

        Federal judges are appointed for life, not elected.

        -1, Did Not Do The Research
        Citizens of Texas own lotsa guns, and Texans still have no great love for anything Federal.

        • Citizens of Texas own lotsa guns, and Texans still have no great love for anything Federal.

          One would presume that includes no great love for federal prison? Threatening a federal judge with bodily harm or death, or causing same, is something that will get you hit with the shit-hammer.

        • by Shakrai (717556)

          Citizens of Texas own lotsa guns, and Texans still have no great love for anything Federal.

          And yet the good citizens of the great State of Texas allowed the Feds to murder [wikipedia.org] 76 people after lying to obtain a search warrant and bumbling the execution of it in a manner that was all but guaranteed to result in violence.

  • abuse of process (Score:2, Insightful)

    by vginders (521915)

    > "It will be interesting to see how East Texas judges respond
    > to this abuse of process perpetrated against their own residents."

    abuse of process? Does such a thing exist in the USA?

  • turn it around... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by nycguy (892403) on Friday July 24, 2009 @09:54AM (#28806399)
    Should the FSF open an office in East Texas and launch lawsuits for violating the GPL from there?
  • Ha (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward
    I'm very glad when I hear news like this one.
    I'm glad because hopefully is this kind of trials that will make people realize how stupid software patents are.
    I do hope more of this happen, but I feel sorry for those who are the victims right now.
    If is there any kind of consolation, it resides on knowing that you are contributing to the fight against this shit.

    To the brothers and sisters who stand and fight, I leave a word:

    Don't stand down, don't give up. You are the heroes of the modern age.
  • Dangerous Activity (Score:3, Insightful)

    by gravos (912628) on Friday July 24, 2009 @10:11AM (#28806577) Homepage
    Filing a lawsuit against an individual or small business (ie, any entity that is not a corporation) who has not harmed you is kind of like walking up to a stranger on the street and punching him in the face. You'll probably get away with it a few times, but eventually you'll pick the wrong person and get what's coming to you.

    The plaintiffs should be lucky this guy is content to put a 'strongly worded' letter on his website.
  • by erroneus (253617) on Friday July 24, 2009 @10:40AM (#28806923) Homepage

    I was reading about how Bilski is threatening software patents and how some sides are saying "It ain't over yet!" and are interpreting the interest taken by the supreme court as intent to overturn the Bilski decision. On the other hand, at least one supreme court justice is well aware of the questionable nature of the East Texas court and has expressed dislike for it. From that I can see that perhaps the SCOTUS would like to finally reign in the lower courts and the abuse that is propagated by the East Texas court.

    I believe the Bilski decision represents a restoration of sanity to patent law and process as I am sure that others here will agree. When it comes to technology, interoperability and compatibility are absolutely critical to growth and development of new technology as increasingly one thing builds on another very rapidly. To patent software literally and directly imposes roadblocks, or more exactly, private toll blocks on technological progress. One could even argue that without reigning in such practices, the U.S. will be giving up its position of technological superiority because of such abusive greed.

  • If there is any bias in the courts there, it's that they love to see the poor guy win the lottery and the big corp take it on the chin David Vs Goliath style. Being any kind of big or out of state company suing someone in East Texas without a dam good reason will probably not end well for said company. Unless of course there's some money carelessly forgotten somewhere..that's a different story...

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