Two months ago I reported on CopyTele’s patent suit against Microsoft Skype. I concluded that post with a quote from CopyTele CEO Robert Berman: "This is the initiation of what will be a broader patent enforcement campaign" that could target 90 to 100 web conferencing companies.
It seems that his statement was not a bluff. Today the company put out a press release announcing similar patent infringement lawsuits against Citrix and Logitech. The suit against Logitech targets their 2009 acquisition of LifeSize video conferencing. Citrix of course has the GoTo family of conferencing products, including GoToMeeting, GoToWebinar, and GoToTraining.
The new developments interest me for two reasons. First, I have to shake my head in sympathy for poor old Logitech. Their core business is in hardware. But in 2009 they bought LifeSize as a way to expand their footprint into the software side of videoconferencing. Apparently that didn’t work out as well as they had hoped. Early this year Logitech wrote down LifeSize’s value by more than half and announced that they were considering selling off the business. Then in late April the CEO announced that they had decided to keep LifeSize, but would scale back and focus sales efforts on SME businesses. Now they have to defend a lawsuit against it. I’ll bet the board meetings this week are fun.
The second and more important fact for me is that CopyTele is expanding its suit against several very big names all at once. That would seem to indicate a strong belief that they can actually win, rather than just hoping for a quick payoff to settle out of court. Going up against one defendant gives you room to negotiate and maneuver. Going up against three major players with strong technical and legal teams is a different story. I would imagine that those companies will share defense strategies and fight back fiercely in concert and individually. And if CopyTele keeps adding other major vendors (Cisco? Adobe?) to its hit list, this could turn into the biggest legal battle in web conferencing history.
I’ll keep reporting on this story as news develops, but I expect that to be a long, drawn-out process.