After holding its tongue for years, it seems, Yahoo! has unleashed a patent lawsuit against Facebook, arguing that Facebook's momumental success would not have been possible without the use of techniques developed and patented by Yahoo! in it's heyday. Like software patent suits that have laid claim to everything from the concept of the micro-transaction to the concept of torrenting, this suit is mainly concerned with broadly defined techniques and strategies, as opposed to specific technologies or anything so physical. Social networking juggernaut Facebook is no small target, and it this seems to be an all-or-nothing sort of play on Yahoo!'s part.
Micro-transactions aren't particularly new or novel. Every since FarmVille exploded, the concept of buying in-game materials in order to speed things up, making things prettier, or make things easier has been pretty widely adopted. It may, in fact, be the future of gaming, what with free-to-play games proving to a rather persistent trend. Considering that everybody is using micro-transactions and everything seems to be working out just fine, it can be that someone has a patent on them, can it? It can.
There are a lot of people who will say that Walmart has some bad business practices, treats their employees and customers poorly, and puts small companies out of business. There are less that are willing to take them to task on it. There is only one who would do it over 2 cents and principle: Mary Bach of Pennsylvania. When she was charged an additional 2 cents on top the listed price for her Banquet "Brown 'N Serve" sausages --something she claims has happened more than once -- she decided to sue, won, and was awarded $180.
From the get-go, this case seems to have all the hallmarks of frivilous, "I'll sue you and your dog!" litigation, but Bach claims there's more to it and I'm inclined to believe her. This is not Bach's first suit against Walmart. In fact, she's sued five times in the past for exactly the same thing: Being charged more money than the listed price. While it's only a few cents, given the freqeuncy of the event and the number of customers Walmart has daily, Back thinks this amounts to some serious unearned, dishonest revenue.
Alleged patent troll Innovatio IP Ventures, LLC has decided that one of its (presumably many) patent portfolios is for Wi-Fi in general. As such, it has begun to sue companies left and right as patent trolls are wont to do. So far, the suits have largely been against restaurants, coffee shops, and department stores including Caribou Coffee, Cosí and Panera Bread. In an attempt to freshen up the patent trolling process, it seems that Innovatio is asking for comparatively tiny settlements of between $2000 and $5000 to make the option of going to court seem extra expensive.
At this point you're probably thinking "wait a minute, but I use Wi-Fi." Rest assured, Innovatio has no intentions of going after
your walletyou...yet. In an interview, Matthew McAndrews, lead litigator for Innovatio lawsuits said "Innovatio has made a strategic and business judgment at this stage that it doesn’t intend to pursue [lawsuits on the basis of] residential use of WiFi." He also made a point of mentioning that "This is not a seat-of-the-pants, fly-by-night shakedown." The lawyer doth protest too much, methinks.
Courts Find Against Patent Troll, Fine Troll Lawyers
The Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit recently found against a patent troll in the recent EON-NET LP v. FLAGSTAR BANCORP case, going so far as to fine the lawyers involved. For the unaware, a patent troll is a company that acquires patents and then uses them to sue as many companies as possible for patent infringement, not in any hopes that they might win, but instead to quickly offer a settlement that cost less than the cost of going to court. Extortion basically, and the courts called it just that.
Citing the over 100 lawsuits Eon-Net (the troll) had filed, all followed by quick demands for settlements, the court's decision said that the lawsuit had "indicia of extortion," fined the lawyers under Rule 11 for filing lawsuits with the intent to harass and ultimately found against the troll. As if that wasn't enough, the court also pointed out that Eon-Net is a non-practicing company, which provides it with generally undeserved protection against counter patent-infringement lawsuits because, well, it doesn't do anything.