Monday, March 22, 2021

Caltech seeks to extend billion-dollar patent win over Apple, Broadcom to Microsoft: new lawsuit in Western District of Texas over Surface, Xbox

According to a patent infringement complaint filed on Friday, Microsoft--famously headquartered in Redmond, WA--has offices at 10900 Stonelake Boulevard, Austin, TX, USA 78759 and 401 East Sonterra Boulevard, San Antonio, TX. Those offices don't seem to be very large, but the per-square-foot cost of doing business there could be staggering: both these places are in the Western District of Texas, the most attractive venue for U.S. patent plaintiffs even ahead of the Eastern District of the same state.

The Western District has displaced the Eastern District. Waco-based Judge Alan Albright is no less patentee-friendly (an understatement) than Judge Gilstrap, but many major tech companies from the West Coast have additional operations in the Austin area, while the Eastern District is rural and easy to avoid. For example, you won't find any Apple Store in the Eastern District by now (though some are just across the border of the federal judiciary district). A certain presence by a defendant is, however, what it makes it easy for patent plaintiffs to avoid that their cases get transferred out of their chosen district under the Supreme Court's TC Heartland case law (PDF).

The California Institute of Technology ("Caltech") is now suing Microsoft in Waco, claiming that the Microsoft Surface portable computers and the Xbox gaming console infringe a handful of WiFi-related--but apparently not standard-essential--patents (this post continues below the document):

21-03-19 Caltech v. Microso... by Florian Mueller

The Caltech v. Microsoft complaint immediately brings two spectacular (or, from the perspective of true innovators, shocking) patent damages verdicts to mind:

Caltech is trying to get the best of both worlds: while leveraging its victory in L.A. (though I wish Apple and Broadcom luck on appeal and don't expect the verdict to be upheld, at least not in full), Caltech transparently attempts to benefit from the Waco patent bonanza.

Caltech is being represented by Quinn Emanuel and a small local firm, Mann Tindel Thompson. Quinn Emanuel is more often seen representing plaintiffs against Apple than against Microsoft, but this blog reported on various cases in which QE worked for Motorola against Microsoft, including the case in which Judge Robart's famous antisuit injunction came down.

I'll follow developments in the Western District more closely now, given that it's the world's #1 hotspot for patent damages just like Munich is the world's #1 venue for patent injunctions.

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