Google pinned in Texas patent swamp by Rockstar, the Apple-backed troll

5 Comments

The Supreme Court may have laid down the law on silly software patents, but its words don’t mean much down in East Texas, where a federal judge just blessed a patent troll’s controversial campaign to attack a range of devices that use Google’s Android(s GOOG) operating system.

In a ruling on Monday, U.S. District Judge Rodney Gilstrap refused to grant Google’s request to throw out claims that messaging and notification patents on Samsung’s Nexus and Galaxy devices violate patents dating from 1997. The claims were filed in November by Rockstar, a shell company that was stitched together from the carcass of bankrupt telecom firm Nortel, and is now controlled by Google rivals, including Apple(s aapl) and Microsoft(s msft).

Google had asked the Texas court to throw out the claims based on Alice Corp, a 9-0 decision from June in which the Supreme Court held that taking familiar ideas and implementing them through a computer should not qualify for patent protection. The Rockstar patents, including one titled “System and method for notifying a user of an incoming communication event,” would seem to fall under this category, but Judge Gilstrap disagreed:

The Court concluded in [an earlier] opinion that Claim 5 of the ‘131 Patent is not directed at an unpatentable “abstract idea.” The Court sees no reason to change its mind. The Supreme Court’s recent treatment of § 101 in Alice Corp … makes no suggestion that the extensively limited and concrete processes outlined in Claim 5 are unpatentable. On this ground, then, Google’s motion must be denied. (my edits)

The ruling is hardly a surprise given that Judge Gilstrap rides herd in the district of East Texas, which has made patent trolling a full-blown cottage industry. As Joe Mullin of Ars Technica and others have shown, a disproportionate amount of cases keep landing in Gilstrap’s court, where patent-friendly juries are happy to keep the litigation train rolling along — and help ensure local hotels and restaurants stay brimming with out-of-town lawyers.

The upshot is that Google is now pinned in East Texas, where it faces the unpalatable choice of paying off the Rockstar troll or else rolling the dice on a Texas jury. Meanwhile, Google is also tangling with Rockstar in California, where it has asked a judge to declare that its devices like the Nexus 5 and Nexus 10 don’t infringe the troll’s patents. That case is still mired in procedural issues.

For consumers, the Rockstar ruling could lead to more expensive mobile devices if Android device makers have to pass along the costs of paying the patent troll. The ruling may also embolden Rockstar, whose trolling campaign is reportedly targeting hundreds of Silicon Valley companies.

Companies like Rockstar, which pays once-proud Nortel engineers in Canada to pick apart old devices for trolling opportunities, also got a boost earlier this year when Senate Democrats killed a bipartisan patent reform bill.

Here’s Judge Gilstrap’s ruling, which was spotted by Law360 (sub required):

Denial of Google Motion to Dismiss

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5 Comments

soren

Companies that make newer devices solely to replace working devices I already have get no sympathy from me. Being able to obsolete something at the push of a button should be a crime. If these companies want to cannibalize each other and eat their young, they deserve everything they get.

Joe S

Tired of patent trolls and trolling… System needs an overhaul obviously.

Gary Doan

This lawsuit is not about Android. The patent in question is the core of the Google ad engine, that matches users desires with ads. In other words, Google’s crown jewels.

mike

So Apple is a troll, and their Rockstar consortium is reportedly “targeting hundreds of Silicon Valley companies.” Maybe you should edit all your former and now contradictory articles where you pit the “trolls” against Apple, and where you make claims that due to the behavior of the “trolls”, the cost of Apple’s products go up.

>> For consumers, the Rockstar ruling could lead to more expensive mobile devices if Android device makers have to pass along the costs of paying the patent troll.

Suppose it does increase the cost of Android mobile devices. Then this possible increase is on Google and on those Android device makers. They are the ones who took the risk. To avoid the risk, they should perform due diligence to seek licenses if they are going to use others’ technologies. Period.

If they are indeed found to infringe and then must raise the price of their devices to counter the suit or their lack of due diligence in that they now must pay patent licenses, and if that encourages consumers to start looking at cheaper, competitive products, then THIS VERY THING is what us capitalists call “healthy competition at work”. Infringers can either stop stealing, or produce something else by either inventing something new or working around the patent. Not only does this provide healthy competition, it also motivates new innovation. But if you do want to get sued, just steal and infringe on patents and refuse to innovate something new, I guess.

This is the same comment I made here in your article here, where I mentioned that if GPNE is a troll, then Apple is also a troll with their Rockstar behavior: http://gigaom.com/2014/07/02/apple-may-not-call-patent-troll-a-patent-troll-before-jury-says-judge/

>> The upshot is that Google is now pinned in East Texas, where it faces the unpalatable choice of paying off the Rockstar troll or else rolling the dice on a Texas jury.

Google would face the same choice of paying Rockstar or rolling dice with a jury, no matter where the patent suit is filed.

>> … Gilstrap’s court, where patent-friendly juries are happy to … help ensure local hotels and restaurants stay brimming with out-of-town lawyers.

Jeff, are you claiming that local people on juries in East Texas have deals with local hotels and restaurants to stay brimming? Do you have something against Texans? Because this is a pretty bold claim. So that your article does not become tainted with bias and emotion, please disclose your evidence.

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