January Patent Lawsuits: Check Scanning, Online Maps, and E-commerce

Landmark Technology's 20 years of lawsuits

Today I’m publishing the second installment of my analysis of January patent lawsuits. The first installment, published last week, covered Jan. 1-10. Here’s the Week One spreadsheet. Before that, I wrote about my methodology for identifying patent trolls. Today’s letter today covers litigation from Jan. 11-18, and has a spreadsheet as well, with venues and case numbers.

This week saw 63 patent lawsuits filed, and once more, just over half of them (51%) involve non-practicing entities (NPEs). Looking just at non-pharmaceutical cases, we see 57% of them are NPE cases. A full 75% of the non-pharma lawsuits were filed by either NPEs or another type of serial litigant. Western District of Texas is by far the most popular venue, with 21 of the lawsuits (31%).

Given the volume of litigation and my personal bandwidth, I’m necessarily going to be picking and choosing which ones I write about. I’m happy to hear suggestions about which cases to look at more closely, or other types of feedback. Send it all to joe@letterspatent.org.

If you find this newsletter interesting or helpful, the best thing you can do to help me out is to subscribe and share it with others. Oh, and there are comments on the posts! If you’d like to discuss what’s presented here, that’s a great place to do it.

In upcoming posts, I’ll finish looking at all the January NPEs, and will also look more in-depth at a few cases I’ve found particularly interesting.

  1. Napco, Inc. v. Landmark Technology A LLC [Complaint]
    Landmark Tech’s Demand Letter

It takes a special kind of person to threaten people over patents just for selling things on the Internet. It takes an extra-special person to do it for more than 20 years. Lawrence Lockwood, the owner of Landmark Technology, is that special guy.

Starting in the late 1990s, Lockwood was able to get a few patents related to online financial transactions. He quickly commenced sending out letters to small businesses—candy shops, toy companies, and more—demanding $30,000 in patent royalties. Today, his letters ask for $65,000. (It’s negotiable.)

When asked during a deposition what he did for a living, Lockwood replied: “I’m currently litigating my patents.” Lockwood also reportedly said that he had “never, for any length of time, used a personal computer.” 

Those quotes were reported by the Los Angeles Times back in 2003, in an article that described Lockwood as a former travel agent. In a 2011 piece in the San Diego Union-Tribune, Lockwood is called a “former producer of infomercials.” One of Landmark’s earlier patents was analyzed in EFF’s Deeplinks blog. That patent has now been retired, and more recent lawsuits involve Patent No. 7,010,508

This month, a company is fighting back against Landmark’s threats. North Carolina-based Napco owns, among other businesses, the website Binders.com, which sells, you guessed it, binders. Landmark sent Napco one of its $65,000 demand letters back in October, and this lawsuit is Napco’s response. The complaint seeks to invalidate the ‘508 patent, which has been used against more than 70 small companies. Napco’s lawsuit also claims that Landmark violated a North Carolina state law against bad-faith patent assertions.

“[I]n recent years Landmark has focused its patent enforcement efforts exclusively on smaller companies who may not have the financial resources to file invalidation actions,” Napco’s lawyers write. 

The ‘508 patent is basically a patent on computers communicating with each other. Plus multimedia, plus e-commerce (“inquiries” and “orders.”)  But Claim 1 takes 400+ words to explicate this, full of bloated jargon like this: 

means for selectively and interactively presenting to said operator interrelated textual and graphical data describing a plurality of transaction options, and for selectively retrieving data from said mass memory;

Which is just a user, some data, a transaction, some data, and some memory. So, the Internet.

Landmark’s strategy is based on its targets not wanting to spend the money to fight back. It can’t afford too many Napcos, in other words. It would be great if Napco really sees this case through, as far as they can. This is a noxious patent owned by a uniquely unsympathetic plaintiff.

  1. Omega Patents, LLC v. Bayerische Motoren Werke AG et al [Complaint]

Omega Patents has filed 14 patent lawsuits. The one against BMW uses Patent No. 9,458,814, filed in 2014, and claims the rights to remote-start vehicle technology. The case was originally filed in Georgia, and was transferred this month.

Omega Patents isn’t an NPE, although it’s hard to tell at first glance. It’s owned by inventor Kenneth E. Flick, who sells vehicle security stuff, including a remote-start product, at a retail location and at caralarm.com.

Remote start technology wasn’t even new in 2004, when GM became the first company to offer the technology direct from the factory. Flick claims his 2014 patent application included “additional functionality and user convenience,” compared to earlier systems.

Court documents in other cases show that Flick pleaded guilty to federal copyright infringement and smuggling charges in 1987. He admitted to counterfeiting cassette tapes overseas and importing them into the U.S. for sale at flea markets. Years later, Flick sued the federal government to get back his rights to legally possess firearms, arguing that “his crimes occurred long ago and did not involve violence, and … he is now a responsible and law-abiding citizen.”

So, Flick really wants to pack some heat. Courts have not accepted his arguments, though. On December 29, 2020, Flick petitioned the Supreme Court, and his lawyers stated in part:

Flick is a prolific and notable inventor and entrepreneur. He currently owns over 150 U.S. patents and numerous parallel foreign patents. Since 2003, Flick’s holding company has earned over $50 million in revenue from licensing his patent portfolio to various companies in the car audio and security industry.

Moreover, his former distribution business has sold millions of car alarms, directly employing nearly 100 Atlanta workers. Flick continues to manage his patent and licensing portfolio and invent new products.

Did Flick share any actual technology with his licensees for the $50 million they paid him? Or did his competitors just pay him for what they’re already doing, on threat of lawsuit?

  1. Lupercal LLC v. BBVA USA Banchares, Inc. [Complaint]

Lupercal LLC says they invented mobile deposit. I’d love to get a royalty on every bank transaction, too, wouldn’t you?

Joao Bock Transactions and DataTreasury are two other NPEs that have claimed rights to check deposits. USAA also claims they invented mobile deposit; they successfully sued Wells Fargo, and have said they’ll be licensing others.

I suspect the real story behind the “invention” of mobile deposit is that everyone knew it was coming years before it happened, which was why Congress passed the Check 21 Act in 2003.

Lupercal has filed 9 lawsuits in the past two years. The defendants are PNC Bank, Frost Bankers, JP Morgan Chase, PNC Financial, CitiBank, Comerica, Plains Capital Bank, Branch Banking & Trust, and now BBVA.

  1. Traxcell Technologies LLC v. Google [Complaint]

Traxcell holds an array of patents it claims are “fundamental patents in wireless technology.” It has a small website, and its address is a UPS store in Marshall, Texas.

The inventors still appear to own the two patents at issue, U.S. Pat. Nos. 9,918,196 and U.S. Pat. No. 9,549,388. Traxcell, which has sued 10 companies, claims Google Maps infringes. Who else claims to have patent rights to online mapping? NPEs including PanoMap, AGIS Software Development, Vederi LLC, and LBS Innovations, as well as operating company InfoGation.

  1. Proven Networks, LLC v. Microsoft Corp. [Complaint]

Proven Networks is an NPE owned by the partners of a Los Angeles law firm. I covered its lawsuit against Broadcom in last week’s post.

  1. Core Optical Technologies, LLC v. Amazon.com, Inc. et al [Complaint]
    Core Optical Technologies, LLC v. Comcast Corporation et al

Core Optical has 10 lawsuits to its name, including these two, but that number doesn’t reflect all the companies sued. The Amazon lawsuit accuses CenturyLink as well, and the Comcast suit also names Cox, Google, Zayo, Apple, and Alcatel, so that’s eight big defendants. This NPE, based at a residential address in Irvine, Calif., uses a single expired patent belonging to Mark T. Core, identified as the CEO and President of Core Optical. The patent was challenged at the Patent Office as well, but unfortunately the Patent Trial and Appeal Board did not institute a review.

  1. Cedar Lane Technologies Inc. v. Lenovo Group Ltd.

Cedar Lane is a Canadian NPE that has filed more than 80 lawsuits since kicking off its litigation spree in 2019. Its business address is at a law firm in tiny Nelson, British Columbia. It asserts seven patents that have various origins including Polaroid and Fujitsu, but all passed through the hands of Intellectual Ventures. Here’s one example.

  1. MyClerk LLC v. Impinj Inc.

Only one defendant so far for MyClerk LLC, which wields Patent No. 10,133,888, related to RFID tags. The patent originated at Japan-based Universal Entertainment Corp., a maker of arcade games and slot machines.

  1. Castlemorton Wireless, LLC v. Accton Technology Corporation et al [Complaint]
    Castlemorton Wireless, LLC v. ADTRAN, Inc.
    Castlemorton Wireless, LLC v. Newell Brands Inc. et al

U.K.-based Castlemorton owns this U.S. patent, invented by Geoffrey Bagley, who worked at a scientific research organization that’s part of the U.K. Ministry of Defence. It’s been used in 31 lawsuits and claims that products based on the international wireless standards, 802.11b and 802.11g, “necessarily infringe” the patent.

  1. BE Labs v. CommScope Technologies LLC [Complaint]

BE Labs has a bare-bones, two-page website with a copyright notice from 2012. The company claims it’s the developer of the “only” technology that “enables the wireless distribution of streaming HD video.” BE Labs is the original owner of the twopatents, which have been used to sue more than 40 companies.

  1. Neo Wireless LLC v. Dell Technologies et al. [Complaint]
    Neo Wireless LLC v. Apple Inc.
    Neo Wireless LLC v. LG Electronics Inc. et al

These are the first three lawsuits. Neo Wireless is owned by a Pennsylvania patent lawyer, David Loo. From the complaint:

Mr. Loo has over a decade of experience as a licensing executive and patent attorney with a well-established track record of assisting companies, inventors and patent holders to ensure they are fairly compensated for their inventions

  1. 2BCom, LLC v. Netgear, Inc.

2BCom’s website explains that it is “an an IP licensing company specializing in wireless technologies, including Wi-Fi and Bluetooth.” It’s filed 6 cases since April 2020. 2BCom’s president is John Nix, a telecom and internet entrepreneur with a lot of patents to his name, although 2BCom’s patents appear to be purchased. They were originally filed by Toshiba. The accused products are routers.

  1. Aperture IP LLC v. ADT LLC [Complaint]

  2. Sovereign Peak Ventures, LLC v. TCL Technology Group (3 cases)

  3. BCS Software, LLC v. CodeLathe Technologies, Inc.

  1. Hanger Solutions, LLC v. Extreme Networks, Inc. [Complaint]

First case for Hanger Solutions. Allthreepatents passed through Intellectual Ventures. Corporate documents show Hanger Solutions is affiliated with Georgia attorney Scott Wharton and one of his legal partners, Lucas Geren. Wharton’s law firm was linked to a controversial patent assertion scheme in 2013, which involved demanding $1,000 per worker from companies using scan-to-email technology.

RPX research links Hanger to other NPEs with former IV patents, as well.

  1. 602531 British Columbia Ltd v. Fanatics Holdings, Inc. [Complaint]

This strangely named Canadian company is a subsidiary of Wordlogic, which owns the patent. Apparently Wordlogic claims its patent covers predictive text entry. Last year Techdirt reported on the threat letter Wordlogic sent to the Wikimedia Foundation. Wikimedia sued to invalidate the patent, and Wordlogic settled the matter in July. The patent still lives on, obviously.

  1. Symbology Innovations LLC v. The American Automobile Association, Inc. [Complaint]

Symbology’s patent on “presenting information about an object” is a Leigh Rothschild special. He showed up in last week’s list of lawsuits, and will surely see again. Symbology is the most litigious entity on this week’s list, having filed more than 200 lawsuits. The company claims to own the idea of scanning QR codes with your smart phone, which is just one of many, many things that Leigh Rothschild did not invent.

  1. Akoloutheo, LLC v. Sense Corp. [Complaint]

Akoloutheo LLC appears to be a family patent litigation business. The LLC is owned by Rochelle Burns, and the lawyer litigating the case is Ronald Burns, both residents of Frisco, Texas. Two dozen plus defendants sued so far. The patent originated at a Seattle-area Web 1.0 startup called Infomove, and Burns is using it to sue consultancies that offer big data analytics (“platform as a service” appears to be the common jargon used by defendants.)

Archived images of the Infomove website suggest the company crashed in the first dot-com bust around 2001.

One of Sense Corp.’s business verticals is “vaccine management.” Do we really want companies hoping to help with the vaccine rollout to be fending off ridiculous patents that originated with failed dot-com startups?

  1. Transcend Shipping Systems, LLC v. Mediterranean Shipping Company S.A.

Transcend is patent attorney-inventor Raymond Joao’s litigation vehicle for extracting settlements from the shipping industry, and I covered it last week. MSC is his 5th target for this campaign.

  1. DatRec, LLC v. Philips Medical Services [Complaint]
    DatRec LLC v. Allscripts Inc.
    DatRec LLC v. McKesson Corporation

Patent is on a method of using a “database of personal data records,” and is being used to sue companies over health records databases. It originated with Famillion, an apparently defunct Israeli startup.

  1. AML IP, LLC v. Blizzard Entertainment, Inc. [Complaint]
    AML IP, LLC v. Kingsisle Entertainment, Inc.
    AML IP, LLC v. ArtCraft Entertainment, Inc.

U.S. Patent No. 7,177,838 is on “electronic tokens,” and AML says the tokens used in World of Warcraft infringe. AML is a Texas LLC that’s owned by another Texas LLC, called Dynamic IP Deals. Dynamic IP is a “patent monetization” firm, and its president is Carlos Gorrichategui. RPX research links Gorrichategui to several other NPEs.

Finally, one notable non-NPE lawsuit. Koninklijke KPN, a Dutch state-owned telecom, has filed six lawsuits since the start of the year demanding patent royalties on all kinds of wireless products.

Thanks for reading! Send feedback and tips to joe@letterspatent.org.

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