When push comes to shove, some businessmen throw caution and all smart business practice sense to the wind. Recently the CEO and founder of FindTheBest, Kevin O’Connor, has decided to take a patent troll, who has been harassing his company, to court. Patent trolls are companies/individuals that impose patent rights against alleged patent infringers but do not make the patent in question themselves. They merely take advantage of a broken system.
Defending a patent infringement suit costs one a lot of money, and can sometimes cost up to millions of dollars. The alternative that patent trolls provide is paying a ‘licensing fee’, making the so-called “infringement” legal. Despite all parties knowing that this is merely a shakedown they inadvertently end up paying the licensing fees, as it is cheaper to settle. Legally, a patent troll does not have to disclose the details of the patent he holds when sending a cease and desist letter, making it harder for an alleged infringer to adjudge whether the action against him is valid or not.
Patent trolling is only viable as a shakedown; taking the matter to court hurts both parties as the legal costs are exorbitant. It is clear from Lumen View’s correspondence with FindTheBest that they are intent on avoiding a court case as much as possible. The company’s initial demand was $50,000 but they threatened to go up to $85,000 if FindTheBest decided to fight back. Subsequently, O’Connor was presented with a ‘one day only’ settlement offer, reduced to $50,000 again if he did not file a suit in court.
O’Connor filed a suit on the 16th of this month, setting into motion a long drawn infringement suit that will cost him a lot of money. But he is okay with that. He has decided to put up a million dollars of his own money to fight for something he believes in. He has filed his case under the Racketeer Influenced Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act. This has only been tried thrice before and has not worked out well for the alleged infringers. Cisco had filed a similar action against Innovatio but lost.
Historically, patent holders have had strong legal protection, but O’Connor believes he has a good chance to win this in court. Among other things, O’Connor claims that Lumen View did not do "any meaningful pre-filing investigation." Allegedly, Lumen View conducted a broad internet search for companies that offer any type of matching service. But search parameters as broad as ‘matching services’ will return more results than you can shake a stick at. Apparently, Lumen's expert witness had never heard of FindTheBest, let alone investigated whether it had infringed their patent. FindTheBest is a research tool that filters through all the data relating to a topic to present the user with the best option amongst many.
At Traklight, we believe that patent rights are provided as a means for people to bring something bright and beautiful into the world so they can derive benefit from their conception and protect their creativity from being exploited. However it seems these same rights are now being used as a means to exploit others. It was never the intent of intellectual property rights to stifle creativity and patent trolling does just that. Here’s wishing Kevin O’Connor and his company all the best!