Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Microsoft sues patent troll Acacia for breach of license agreement through infringement actions

Reuters reports on a lawsuit filed by Microsoft against Acacia Research (a company frequently referred to as a "patent troll") in the Southern District of New York today, allegedly "Acacia broke a contract to license various smartphone and mobile computing technologies to Microsoft".

It was already known before today's filings that Microsoft took at least one license from an Acacia subsidiary (more than three years ago). Reuters says that in October 2013, "various Acacia subsidiaries filed lawsuits against Microsoft, charging that the software company had infringed more than a dozen patents", and Microsoft's breach-of-contract action is a "response to those [infringement] actions", but that's all that is known about the lawsuit for the time being. The complaint is not accessible on PACER, but I will keep an eye on this case and report in more detail when more information becomes available.

Reuters furthermore quotes a Microsoft in-house lawyer as saying that Acacia's lawsuits "are the worst kind of abusive litigation behavior, attempting to extract payment based on litigation tactics and not the value of its patents". This is exactly the kind of allegation that many companies large and small make these days against so-called patent trolls.

There are patent reform proposals that Microsoft and other major patent holders including IBM do not support -- they don't want to weaken the patent system as a whole because they consider it an engine of innovation. But Microsoft has to fend off large numbers of patent troll lawsuits and has spoken out in favor of loser-pays fee-shifting and more transparency in patent ownership -- reform measures that would discourage the kind of behavior that Acacia is allegedly engaging in.

Earlier today, Bloomberg wrote about "publicly-traded patent collectors plaguing Google, Apple". Acacia is publicly-traded. Microsoft is one of the large players it's plaguing.

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