Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Rockstar's addition of Google as defendant to Samsung case could keep patent suit in Texas

On Sunday I mentioned Google's procedural gamesmanship in patent cases (and the fact that it isn't working out too well against Microsoft). But, in all fairness, others play the same kind of game against Google, and the Rockstar patent holding firm is an example.

Rockstar appears to have a predilection for filing complaints on symbolic calendar dates. It fired a salvo of patent infringement lawsuits at Google and seven of its Android OEMs on Halloween. And on New Year's Eve, it amended the lawsuit against one of those -- Samsung -- to add Google as a co-defendant (this post continues below the document) because of the Galaxy Nexus:

13-12-31 1st Amended Rockstar Complaint Against Samsung (Adds Google) by Florian Mueller

Samsung has until Friday to answer the complaint. I doubt that it would be granted another extension just on the basis of Rockstar's amendment: nothing changes for Samsung itself. And Samsung and Google use the same lawyers anyway, which turns coordination into child's play.

On December 23, Google filed a declaratory judgment lawsuit in the Northern District of California. The only plausible reason: Google wants to get the Rockstar cases against Android OEMs moved out of the Eastern District of Texas, which has a reputation of being patentee-friendlier than the Northern District of California.

Rockstar's amendment of the Samsung complaint could further complicate Google's venue transfer efforts. While the amendment was made after Google's declaratory judgment complaint, the Rockstar-Samsung case is still the earlier-filed action. I guess Rockstar will somehow try to leverage the addition of Google to the Samsung lawsuit in the massive venue fight that we're going to see in those Rockstar-Android cases before the real thing -- the process relating to the substance of the patent infringement allegations -- begins. As of the time of publication of this post, none of the defendants in any of the Rockstar Halloween cases has responsed to the complaint or (which will likely happen first) brought motions to transfer.

Gene Quinn, a U.S. patent attorney and author of the IPWatchdog blog, commented today on a recent deal between Rockstar and patent monetizer Spherix relating to 100 patents. Mr. Quinn notes that "Rockstar will also share usage information with Spherix for the transferred patents, and will assist Spherix in working with the patents' inventors, to assist Spherix's commercialization efforts" and believes that "this is likely a signal of more patent infringement lawsuits yet to come". This is a reasonable assumption, though it could also be that at least some of the defendants in the Rockstar Halloween cases do opt to strike a license deal with Spherix. It might be out of character for someone like Google to do so, but it could happen. If not, then there will indeed be even more lawsuits involving former Nortel patents.

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