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11.03.15

EFF Asks CAFC to Tackle the Trolls’ Docket, the Eastern District of Texas

Posted in America, Patents at 2:29 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Summary: The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) asks the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (CAFC) to do something about the capital of patent trolls, which have become symptomatic of the problems with the US patent system

THE USPTO has become notorious for many reasons, one of which is its role in producing a plethora of patent trolls, equipped with software patents. Texas too has become notorious for many reasons (education quality, police brutality, gun crime etc.) but one that is relevant to us pertains to patent trolls as well. The Eastern District of Texas is unique in this regard because it’s now known as the capital of patent trolls and very little apart from that. There is already an international reputation for this.

According to this recent article, the EFF asks for a shutdown of this trolls’ docket because almost nothing but patent trolls comes from/to there anyway. To quote one of the earliest articles on this subject:

The Electronic Frontier Foundation and Public Knowledge have asked a federal appeals court to make big changes to the rules governing venue in patent cases. The two public interest groups are seeking to file an amicus brief (PDF) which attacks the Eastern District of Texas as being one of the “most notorious situations of forum shopping in recent history.”

The opportunity came up in a case where an Indiana company called TC Heartland was sued by Kraft Foods for infringing three Kraft patents on “liquid water enhancers.” Kraft sued TC Heartland in Delaware; TC Heartland asked the judge for a transfer to Indiana, but was shot down.

TC Heartland has appealed the venue decision to the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, which handles all patent appeals. It’s asking the court to overturn entirely a 1990 case that has made it easy for patent holders to sue in just about any district they choose.

The US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit is itself part of the problem. Asking it to remark on or reform the Eastern District of Texas is perhaps wishful thinking.

Mike from TechDirt remarked as follows: “It’s been nearly ten years since we first wrote about the East Texas district court, based in Marshall, Texas, (and Tyler, Texas) and the fact that patent trolls have been flooding that court with cases. The trolls claimed they liked East Texas because the judges worked quickly and because they “understood” patent issues. The reality, of course, is that East Texas became notorious for a few judges who were insanely pro-patent troll, and ran their cases in a manner that helped out trolls immensely. It’s become a cottage industry, leading to some weird situations, such as the time that Tivo (involved in a patent lawsuit at the time) literally bought a bull right in Marshall, Texas. Perhaps no company has “invested” more in winning over folks in Marshall than Samsung, which not only sponsored the local ice rink, but also gives scholarships to high schoolers there, donates to local schools and takes kids on semiconductor factory tours — all out of the kindness of its corporate heart, no doubt.”

Whether the EFF succeeds here or not, it sure helps raise awareness of a problem that cannot and will not be ignored. Here in Europe, where the EPO already perturbs patent laws, patent trolls gradually nest and even attack.

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