CopyTele put out a new press release today. They have acquired two new patent portfolios in the field of Unified Communications. For clarity and conciseness, I will quote the important sentences directly from the press release:
- The first portfolio covers the multicast, Internet delivery of streaming data, media, and other content to large numbers of recipients, within the confines of specialized virtual private networks ("VPN's).
- The second portfolio covers the integration of telephonic participation in web-based audio/video conferences by creating a gateway between the Internet, and cellular or traditional landline telephones.
Prosecuting the first patent will affect several big name and big usage enterprise webcasting providers. Prosecuting the second patent could affect almost everybody in this field.
I first reported on CopyTele and its new concentration on web conferencing and collaboration in May of 2013. At the end of that post I wrote:
The chilling part of the lawsuit is encapsulated in a quote from CopyTele CEO Robert Berman in the TechCrunch article. He says "This is the initiation of what will be a broader patent enforcement campaign" that could target 90 to 100 web conferencing companies.
In July I reported on the first CopyTele patent infringement lawsuits being initiated against Citrix and Logitech. I wrote:
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.
Now CopyTele has even more ammunition that can be used against even more technology providers. And the company has emphatically shown that it acquires these patents for active prosecution and revenue generation.
CopyTele is certainly operating completely legally and in a transparent and open manner. This is their explicitly stated business model and they are exercising legal rights following the letter of the law. The revenue potential for them is impressive.
Still, it turns my stomach from a standpoint of conscientious propriety. Patent law was established to protect inventors and encourage disclosure, sharing, and use of publicly beneficial innovation. It wasn't intended as a "get rich quick" scheme for consolidators with no interest or vested time and effort in the technologies.
The New York Times published an article last month where Floyd Norris brought to light some alarming statistics about companies like CopyTele. Officially and legally known as an N.P.E. (Nonpracticing Entity), the commonly used parlance is "Patent Troll."
In 2006, only 19% of all patent suits were filed by Patent Trolls. The current estimate is 60%. Suits are relatively easy to file because there are no damages assessed against a filer who loses his case. But courts are starting to consider remedies that might make Patent Trolls pick their battles more carefully, with more to lose.
I'll keep watching CopyTele and their suits. We are sure to see filings associated with these new patent portfolios. I'm scared about the possible effects and I'm not even in the business of making the software! If things were chilling in May, they are positively icy now.