Blog Post

Law students chase patent troll away from connected car start-up

Patent troll stories don’t usually have a happy ending but this might count: a troll tried to shake down a start-up for $250,000 but had to skulk away empty-handed thanks to the hard work of a group of students at Brooklyn Law School.

As patent lawyer Eric Adler explains, California-based CarShield sought the students’ help after its connected-car business was targeted by a troll who goes by the name 911 Notify.

The troll, which is nothing but a shell company, put CarShield in the same terrible dilemma that confronts every other target of patent trolls: it could either spend hundreds of thousands on lawyers to fight the troll, or simply pay the troll to go away.

The law students, however, changed the financial calculation by lending their time to help CarShield challenge the troll in court. Their case was aided by a recent Supreme Court case that curtailed computer patents, and another that made it easier to collect legal fees from trolls.

Long story short, the troll decided to flee rather than fight and dropped the case.

Unfortunately, the troll will live another day — a quick search of federal court records revealed that it is using the same half-baked patent to harass dozens of other companies. And thanks to the failure of Senate Democrats to pass a patent reform bill, there is little to stop it from conducting these shakedowns.

But the episode does raise the intriguing possibility of other student legal clinics joining the fight against patent trolls. As Adler, who helped advise the students points out: “Running a patent litigation defense clinic is not easy, but its possible, and it’s a worthwhile project. Patent trolls hurt innovation, and law students can help stop them.”


9 Responses to “Law students chase patent troll away from connected car start-up”

  1. Russ Baker

    Based on a quick look, the fellow with the patent is a MD with a background in emergency communications. What makes him a troll rather than someone with a real idea?

    • Who knows, Russ. It depends on which side of the fence you sit: on the side of small inventors and them protecting their rights or on the side of big business infringement and monopolistic bullying.

      I see the word “troll” used by those who don’t really care about the rights of inventors and prefer to turn the other cheek with regard to patent infringement while wishing everyone else would do the same. Unless, the patent(s) being infringed is/are their own patent(s). Then they get their panties in a wad. Hint: Apple, Inc (Rockstar), Mark Cuban, Elon Musk, et al.

      Blog author Roberts likes to use the word “troll”, yet turns the other cheek when it comes to the rights of small inventors. Just see many of his other articles and commends here on gigaom for reference.

  2. Wow! to Dilip and Mike
    If you see the history the prosecution and the prior art for this patent you will reach the same conclusion, if you do not know how to do it, you have no business in commenting.

    • >> … if you do not know how to do it

      If you do not know how to do WHAT, exactly? See the prosecution history and prior art? … Um…OK, then?

      By merely glancing at the patent specification, one can clearly see how the application goes to great lengths in Section 1.2 “Description of the Prior Art” in describing prior art, including showing where the prior art lacks, and where this application improves upon the prior art, making the basis for the invention.

      “None of the prior art provide for communicating emergency telephone call notices to designated parties that includes real-time information about the incident or emergency that is being reported, collected within an interval between a time that the emergency call is recognized and a response is initiated, automatically and immediately while the incident is being reported.

      Accordingly, there is a need for an improved system and method of communicating emergency telephone call notices to designated parties that provides real-time information about the incident or emergency that is being reported, automatically, with or without human intervention.”

      So, John, in order for you to have some business in commenting yourself, can you elaborate on how you think the prosecution and prior art makes this patent half baked? Apparently the USPTO, even after initially citing prior art against the application, believes a solid case for patent eligibility was made during the prosecution.

      And in your elaboration remark, please do note: This patent application that was allowed was filed September 2001, and it is a continuation-in-part of a previous application filed November 2000, which is a continuation-in-part of a previous application filed December 1999, which is a continuation-in-part of a previous application filed November 1998, which claims priority from a provisional application filed July 1998. Therefore, depending on context, prior art that you may reference might need to be dated prior to July 1998 in order to read on claims from the 2001 application. So there’s that.

      So, please enlighten us.

  3. Yes, Jeff. I echo Dilip.

    Can you elaborate on why you opine that this patent is “half baked”? Please enlighten us why you disagree with the patent prosecution and allowance of these patent claims in support of your opinion.

  4. Jeff,

    Regarding the “failure of Senate Democrats” to pass the reform bill (the Innovation Act), was that proposed legislation really reform?

    The primary complaint against this bill as seen in the objections by the inventor community was fee shifting to the losing party, even on legitimate law suits. Making this fee shifting a law would empower large corporations to continue to infringe with no just recourse for the small inventor. The large corporations would just continue to bleed them out in court.

    As it turns out, this “failed” legislation to curb trolls making frivolous suits isn’t even necessary per the test of frivolousness as laid out by the Supreme Court in your precious article:

    Why must you continue to bash the dropping of the Innovation Act? It obviously was filled with problems (or it would have passed), and it isn’t even necessary in order to curb troll behavior, as clearly evidenced here in this article with these law students.

    It looks like the problem of curbing law suits initiated by patent assertion entities has been cured, as long as the law suit is frivolous and has no merit. Which is the whole complaint with patent “trolls”, right? Law suits that are frivolous and have no merit?

    • And yet again, Jeff John Roberts remains silent when it comes to supporting inventors. The answer to “trolls” has already been solved and is appropriately handled (i.e., fee shifting if case is found to be frivolous), yet he remains silent.

      Why is this? My guess is so Roberts/GigaOm can continue blogging in an attempt to gain readership and encourage advertising on his blog, all while simultaneously obeying orders from his silicon valley constituents to manipulate and persuade people half baked truths so they will align with their own self interests, e.g. True Ventures (who, mind you, invests in companies where patent infringement and licensing must be a real issue).