Friday, March 14, 2014

Rockstar fine-tuning its Android lawsuits, now asserting four more patents against Google

There hasn't been much progress so far with the Rockstar Consortium's Halloween lawsuits against Google and seven Android device makers (one of whom, Huawei, has already settled) because the parties are still debating the proper venue. But the venue fight does involve some substantive issues, and as a side effect of the related motion practice it became known that Nortel employees told Google back in 2010 that it infringed certain patents that Rockstar is asserting now.

Just for a brief update, Rockstar has made some adjustments to its complaints in order to increase its chances of defeating Google's (and the Android OEMs') push for moving the cases out of the Eastern District of Texas:

  • Late last year Rockstar already added Google as a co-defendant to its Samsung lawsuit. That was the first amended complaint in Rockstar v. Samsung. Rockstar is now seeking permission to file a second amended complaint. In the first one, it asserted only three of the seven patents-in-suit against Google. The objective of the proposed second amended complaint (i.e., the third version in total) is to additionally asserted the four other patents against Google as well. Since those four patents were previously already asserted against Samsung and were addressed by Google in its declaratory judgment action in the Northern District of California, Rockstar argues there's no reasonable basis for Google to oppose this addition. But there is a disagreement.

  • Samsung was first to bring a motion to dismiss Rockstar's lawsuit(s) for lack of standing at the time of filing and, with respect to one of the patents-in-suit, on the grounds of invalidity. The other Android OEMs brought similar, though not in all cases identical, motions to dismiss shortly thereafter. ZTE was last to do so (mentioned in this post) and additionally argued that Rockstar lacked a basis to allege willful infringement of the '551 patent. Rockstar amended its complaint against ZTE accordingly, rendering the '551 willfulness issue moot.

I guess Rockstar's procedural steps will be sufficient to dissuade Judge Gilstrap in Texas from granting any motion to transfer, but won't dissuade Google and its OEMs from filing a somewhat likely mandamus petition with the Federal Circuit. Google could lose in Texas or win in California; so could Rockstar. But especially with a view to pretrial decisions (summary judgment etc.), the Northern District of California would clearly be a better venue for the defendants in these cases.

Finally, on a somewhat related note I'd like to mention something here on which I already commented on Twitter. Bloomberg reported on Google's successful efforts to find out who is behind a patent troll named Suffolk Technologies LLC that is suing it over a former BT patent, and it turned out that "Suffolk is owned by Corporate Research Partners, which is owned by IPValue, formed in 2001 by a joint venture of Goldman Sachs, General Atlantic Partners and Boston Consulting Group". A spokeswoman for Goldman Sachs "said the company has a minority, non-controlling stake in iFormation Group, the parent of IPValue", reports Bloomberg. This doesn't reflect favorably on Goldman Sachs at all, and Google did the world a service by naming and shaming Goldman Sachs for its involvement with patent trolling. But the Bloomberg article misses an important point: while Google supports disclosures of the real party in interest in connection with litigation, it has said that it's not really interested in ensuring transparency in patent ownership before litigation is brought. And that's where transparency should begin. So, while I congratulate Google on its revelations regarding Goldman Sachs, I would encourage it to promote transparency in patent ownership at all levels and all stages, not just selectively.

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