Mycroft is excited to announce that the company’s legal team beat the patent troll. Again. For now. The Federal Court of the Western District of Missouri dismissed the troll’s case against Mycroft on the grounds that the troll didn’t specify which features of Mycroft’s technology infringed on which claims of the patent. But before we get into what happened this week…..
Voice Tech contacted Mycroft in October of 2019, informing us that we infringe on their patents and that they would be happy to licence them to us for a ‘nominal’ fee. After a review of their patent and demands we decided the patents were worthless and the company was a patent troll trying to extort money from the company.
This caused us to evaluate our internal policies about patent trolls. After a little thought we decided that our policy is to fight patent abusers like Voice Tech all the way to the Supreme Court if necessary. We declined their offer, told them in no uncertain terms that they would get nothing from us, and expected them to go away.
Voice Tech’s response to this news was, oddly, to file a patent infringement suit against Mycroft…in the wrong venue. Voice Tech’s attorneys filed suit in the Eastern District of Texas, a venue in which Mycroft has no operations.
When we brought this to Voice Tech’s attention the company dismissed the case, hired local counsel in Kansas City Missouri and filed a suite in the correct venue. Then their attorney whined that we were being mean. We chose not to fight about that ( clearly we were being mean ), but the EFF later weighed in to point out that being mean to a patent troll is protected speech.
In addition to the EFF Mycroft also made another high profile friend. United Patents took note of Mycroft’s fight and decided, independent of the Mycroft team, to file an inter partes review (IPR) against one of the two patents. An IPR is a vehicle for challenging whether a patent should have been issued in the first place. It gives interested parties a vehicle to have a patent revoked because of prior art or obviousness. A successful IPR will invalidate the patent and make it impossible for the owner to use it for patent abuse.
Shortly after Unified Patents filed their IPR, Mycroft went on the offensive and became the first company in Missouri to file a lawsuit, that we know of, under the state’s 2014 patent troll legislation. This legislation establishes a test for patent troll behavior and gives companies a cause of action to sue for damages. After reading the test criteria it is clear that Voice Tech have asserted their patent in bad faith and are liable for all of Mycroft’s legal expenses and damages.
Finally, Mycroft filed an IPR last week challenging the validity of the primary Voice Tech patent. Our IPR filing challenges the validity of the patent and will, when fully instituted, prevent Voice Tech from asserting this patent against Mycroft or anyone else.
As we stated above, the trolls case was dismissed. Again. This time for not specifying how Mycroft actually infringed on their patents.
In addition, the patent troll’s case was stayed indefinitely pending the conclusion of two Inter Partes Reviews that have been filed against the troll’s patents at the US Patent and Trademark Office.
Should those IPRs succeed ( and they will ) all of the troll’s intellectual property will be invalidated. This includes a half dozen additional patents they’re trying to obtain that are based on the original ( invalid ) patents.
It gets better though. Because the patent troll behaved like a patent troll ( i.e. not explicitly stating how Mycroft infringed ), Mycroft now has an iron clad case against the troll under Missouri law and can collect both expenses and damages.
Admittedly the trolls have two weeks to clarify how Mycroft infringes ( we don’t ) on their intellectual property ( which is invalid ) and, assuming their intellectual property survives the IPR process ( it won’t ), they can continue the case in a year or two. So it isn’t over….yet.
So how does this end? For the troll? Badly. Unified Patents’ IPR is extremely likely to succeed in invalidating one of the troll’s two patents. Mycroft’s IPR is likely to succeed in invalidating the relevant claims of the other. In the meantime the trolls have to pay their counsel ( assuming their “counsel” are actually “counsel” and not investors/directors/officers of the shell company ) and associated fees and costs for defending the IPR.But that’s not the end of it. Mycroft is pursuing damages against the trolls under a Missouri statute designed to defend Missouri companies from trolls. And the dismissal of the troll’s infringement case? It makes Mycroft’s case for damages extremely strong.
That means at the end of all of this litigation the troll will be left with no intellectual property, internal legal bills, court fees and a sizable bill for Mycroft’s legal expenses. They’ll also be liable for punitive damages because of their bad faith assertion of their intellectual property. Unless Voice Tech is an actual company that has assets, this is likely to result in the company’s bankruptcy and dissolution.
Will bankrupting and demolishing their professional reputation be enough? Maybe. But if Voice Tech is simply a facade under which a group of unscrupulous attorneys are trying to extort money from honest actors, we will “pierce the corporate veil” and come after the principal’s homes, cars, savings and other assets.
So what is the takeaway from this story?
Also, don’t pick a fight with a pair of founders who’s prior reputation was built on beating the telecommunications lobby, and fighting off bullshit assertions from Marvel – one of the most successful intellectual property franchises on earth. Finally, don’t pick fights with folks who specialize in information warfare. You’ll get your ass kicked.
Mycroft’s First Officer, a serial entrepreneur and Air Force Officer, Joshua brings more than 15 years of leadership experience to the Mycroft team. He is a strong supporter of the open ethos, net neutrality and consumer privacy. Joshua lives in Holualoa, Hawaii with his wife and co-founder Kris Adair.