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Summary:

Is Jay Walker jealous of Paul Allen? Allen got a lot of press when he sued 11 big internet companies last year, essentially saying he patent…

Jay Walker, founder of Priceline.com
photo: flickr / steve jurvetson

Is Jay Walker jealous of Paul Allen? Allen got a lot of press when he sued 11 big internet companies last year, essentially saying he patented ideas like “related links.” Walker has been dabbling in the world of patent-trolling for over a year now, but with no such fanfare; he started off by suing Microsoft (NSDQ: MSFT), Dell, and HP-and the multi-state Powerball lottery. In November, he upped the ante, suing Facebook for patent infringement. Now maybe he’ll get his turn in the spotlight: he’s filed 15 lawsuits against more than 100 defendants, including Microsoft, eBay (NSDQ: EBAY), Amazon (NSDQ: AMZN), Facebook, WalMart, Groupon, Apple (NSDQ: AAPL), Sony (NYSE: SNE) and Google.

In a press release, Walker explains that-just like Allen-he believes the whole economy owes him money because of inventions he created in the mid-1990s. But Walker’s view is a bit more expansive. Whereas Allen seems to believe he’s owed money for basic functions of the internet, Walker thinks he should be paid royalties for online games, banking and payment systems, and GPS navigation, among others. Walker says that inventions at his research lab, Walker Digital Laboratories, entitle him to payment for all these devices.

To launch his biggest legal assault yet, Walker has teamed up with perhaps the most experienced name in widespread patent litigation-Erich Spangenberg, who runs a company he calls IP Navigation Group. Spangenberg, whose litigation I covered extensively in years past, has used dozens of shell companies to sue many hundreds of companies in East Texas, a venue thought to be favorable to patent-holders. (Walker’s suits are filed in Delaware.)

Walker is represented by at least three smaller law firms, including lawyers from Agility IP Law in Palo Alto, Delaware-based Bayard Law, and Russ August & Kabat, a Los Angeles IP firm.

Three examples of the suits Walker has filed:

»  A lawsuit [PDF] against Citigroup, Discover, Wells Fargo, and two payment-services companies, T-Chek Systems and Orbiscom, saying the companies infringe two patents on a “Method And Device For Generating A Single-Use Financial Account Number.”

»  A lawsuit [PDF] against daily deal sites, including Groupon, Livingsocial (and parent company Amazon), and smaller sites like BuyWithMe, Tippr.com, jasmere.com, and juiceinthecity.com. Those sites are alleged to infringe four Walker patents, including one issued in 2001 called “Systems and Methods Wherein A Buyer Purchases A Product At A First Price And Acquires The Product From A Merchant That Offers The Product For Sale At A Second Price.” For example, the lawsuit says BuyWithMe is in trouble because it “offers buyers products and services from retailers at discounted prices and arranges for users to take possession of the goods or services at the retailers’ locations.” Hmm… that was invented in 2001.

»  A lawsuit [PDF] against online game operators, including-(deep breath)-Activision (NSDQ: ATVI), Atari, Cartoon Interactive Group, Disney (NYSE: DIS) Interactive, Electronic Arts (NSDQ: ERTS), ESPN Internet Ventures, Microsoft, Miniclip America, MLB Advanced Media, Onlive, Popcap Games, Sony Corp., Turbine, Turner Digital Basketball Services, Valve Corp., Walt Disney, Yahoo (NSDQ: YHOO), and Zynga. The companies are accused of violating two patents, including this one, which “allows video and computer game enthusiasts to submit their game outcomes to a central online repository so that they can be compared to the results of other players.”

»  A lawsuit [PDF] over mapping technology, filed against Apple, Google (NSDQ: GOOG), Samsung, Microsoft, Telenav, Mio Technology, TomTom, and others.

  1. Joe,

    Great article. However, I think its safe to say that this move is about money, not jealousy. Unlike Paul Allen, Walker Digital’s patents relate to a number of heavily commercialized technologies (contrasted with Allen’s accusations against content recommendation functionality from Google and the like).

    Walker also stands out, as you point out above, in terms of the breadth of his patent portfolio. Participating with Jay Walker in conceiving many of the inventions at issue in these lawsuits is the much-vaunted security expert Bruce Schneier. http://gametimeip.com/2011/04/13/walker-digital-litigation-the-bruce-schneier-effect-and-other-miscellaneous-updates/

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  2. These are rediculus patents issued by the USPTO. This is a patent system gone wacko, no substance and very obvious.

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  3. Yes. It’s horrible they don’t just disbar the lawyer for even trying. “You’re crazy, and therefore cannot practice Law.” or somesuch.

    Then make soylent-red from the woodchipper drain..

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  4. Walker’s patents and claims are legit. He put in the time, money and effort to file the patents and build the patent portfolio to protect intelectual property that his companies generated. What was Skillgames.com is a good example–at least in the on-line game space.

    Roll forward more than a decade, regardless of the fact that he and Disney got into a pissing match and Jay’s ego derailed a perfectly good web business does not take away intellectual capital that was created and he rightfully owns.

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  5. The recent Intellectual Ventures suits present just one example showing that the NPE (“patent troll”) business model is fast becoming dominant in the world of IP. Thomas Edison held over 1,000 patents, but practiced none of them. He invented, which is what he did best, and let others manufacture products from his inventions. If an inventor cannot sue for patent infringement and recover damages, they why should anyone invent anything? Only vigorous patent enforcement rewards inventors for their inventions and incentivizes others to invent.
    http://www.industryweek.com/articles/patent_enforcement_21538.aspx?SectionID=2

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  6. @gena777, while “Edison was an NPE” seems to be the party line among certain patent professionals, it doesn’t really add up. Modern NPEs are building businesses out of nothing more than filing and threatening lawsuits. If I recall, Edison founded a little business that came to be known as General Electric.

    http://www.ge.com/company/history/edison.html

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  7. @patrick, thanks for your comment, and good post noting Bruce Schneier’s co-inventor connection there.

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