07.16.17

Immersion, FitBit, Jawbone, and Creative Chose to be a Pile of Patents Rather Than Real Companies

Posted in America, Courtroom, Patents at 10:32 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Some people out there have already labeled Immersion “patent troll”, but it’s not as simple as that

Immersion logo

Summary: FitBit is the latest company to be slapped by Immersion (having already driven Jawbone out of business) and there’s news about Creative, which uses old patents to shake down Apple and Android OEMs

THERE is definitely such a thing as a “patent troll” (or patent shark as it used to be called, or PAE/NPE as the euphemism); but then there’s that grey area where something or someone is “borderline troll” because one still makes some products (or at least aspires to). Today, we have decided to separate companies that are “real” from those that are obviously trolls. Even “real” companies, such as Microsoft, can oftentimes act like trolls, or at least send their patents (or Nokia’s) trolls’ way in order for the patent trolls to sue on their behalf (indirect trolling). It’s a truly nasty aspect of the industry and sadly enough it’s the reality out there; I often hear from victims of such trolls or “borderline trolls”. They can be utterly destructive to people’s personal lives, not just people’s businesses or pet projects. Bankruptcy is a possibility and there’s also an aspect of threats and blackmail (people literally afraid for their lives).

We’ll break down this post as follows (same for the next post, regarding classic trolls).

Immersion

In past years we wrote dozens of times about high-profile Immersion cases and various other cases of Immersion, a “real” company that’s more interested in “licensing” than actually producing something of its own (it sues almost everybody, except Microsoft, which is historically close to Immersion because of DirectX). Less than a week ago FitBit, which is itself somewhat of a patent bully (we’ll come to that later), found itself on the receiving end of Immersion’s litigation machine. Frankly, no sympathy deserved here because Immersion is now doing to FitBit what FitBit did to its own competitors. Here are the details:

FitBit, which makes wearable technology for fitness, has been sued for patent infringement over use of motion sensing software in its products.

The complaint was filed at the US District Court for the Northern District of California on Monday, July 10.

California-based software company Immersion accused FitBit of wilfully infringing three of its patents, causing “irreparable harm”.

FitBit's own weakness is that its patents may be worthless. We don’t think FitBit can sue Immersion over anything; it would be a lot easier if Immersion actually made something! So there’s no balance of patents here; in effect, only one side can throw patents at the other — the hallmark of patent trolls!

Jawbone

Jawbone got sued by FitBit, but it was at least able to sue FitBit to balance things a little. Both companies actually have products, but as for Jawbone, it seems to be the end of it. The company is becoming just a pile of patents and IAM drools over the possibilities, perhaps expecting these patents to be handed over to trolls:

Jawbone, the consumer electronics business, which was one of the pioneers in fitness oriented wearable devices, started liquidation proceedings earlier this month. Having attracted more than $600 million in venture capital funding and reached a peak valuation of $3 billion, the company suffered in the increasingly competitive wearables market which has seen large tech companies like Apple and Samsung growing their presence. According to reports the company’s founder has set up Jawbone Health Hub which will continue to service Jawbone devices.

What contributed to Jawbone’s collapse was the lawsuit from FitBit, but FitBit too is collapsing and apparently demand for wearable surveillance devices isn’t what they hoped for. We wrote about FitBit’s severe problems (financial) when we also mentioned RPX going headless.

RPX

RPX is not a company but a very major parasite that we wrote about many times before. IAM of course loves such patent parasites, so it recently celebrated this “RPX settlement deal”. Creative settles with another troll (like itself, having run out of ideas and products) and PTAB might serve to thwart this abuse some time soon (we’ll deal with PTAB separately later today). Here is what IAM wrote some days ago:

RPX Corporation yesterday announced a deal with Singapore’s ZiiLabs that will see the Creative Technology subsidiary assign certain patent rights to the defensive aggregator while ending a US litigation campaign with at least seven defendants. The deal appears to end ZiiLabs’ campaign to enforce patents it obtained through a 2002 takeover of 3DLabs. It will not affect Creative’s other major assertion effort, a series of cases based on the so-called ‘Zen patent’ which once compelled a $100 million settlement from Apple and is now awaiting an IPR decision.

Calling RPX a “defensive aggregator” (as IAM does) is misleading; it’s more like an offensive aggressor. It’s full of them anyway. Even Microsoft is a member.

In the next post we’ll syndicate and remark on various patent trolls and what they are up to.

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