Thursday, September 24, 2009

WhoGlue sues FaceBook for patent infringement

The first claim of US 7,246,164 states:

A method for managing the sharing of personal information among a plurality of users of an online relationship management system, the method comprising the steps of:

receiving, from a first user of said plurality of users, an identification of a second user of said plurality of users and an assignment of a second user information access right level for said second user and

receiving, from the second user, an identification of the first user; associating said second user with said first user responsive to receipt of the identification of said second user from said first user, the identification of said first user from said second user, and the second user information access right level from said first user;

receiving, from said first user, first information having a first information access right after associating said second user with said first user, wherein said first information is to be entered into at least one input template of said online relationship management system to provide first structured information automatically generated from at least one output template based on said first information;

transmitting, to said second user, said first information if said second user has provided the first user identification and the first information access right is consistent with the second user information access right level; receiving, from said first user, second information having a second information access right, wherein said second information is to be entered into said at least one input template of said online relationship management system; and

not allowing transmission, to said second user, of said second information if the second user information access right level is inconsistent with said second information access right.

The Baltimore Sun [ Gus G. Sentementes ] reported on 24 Sept 09 that WhoGlue had filed suit against Facebook on 21 Sept 09 for infringement of the '164 patent: "WhoGlue Inc., a Canton [MD] company with fewer than five employees, filed the lawsuit Monday in the U.S. District Court for Delaware, where Facebook is incorporated." WhoGlue retained Ray Niro of Chicago, who works for a firm that handles infringement cases on a contingency basis, and who was peripherally related to the recently settled "patent troll tracker" case in Texas.

The article suggests that WhoGlue is NOT a troll with Jason Hardebeck of WhoGlue stating: "We didn't patent something that we thought would be an opportunity to license" to other companies, he said. "We patented it because it was core to our business." Hardebeck is NOT an inventor of the '164 patent, and all inventor addresses are in California.

The Baltimore Sun presents text from Max Oppenheimer of the University of Baltimore:

For a company to survive, it usually needs either deep pockets or a law firm willing to take up the fight on a contingency-fee basis, Oppenheimer said.

"It's not a question of whether the patent is valid or not," Oppenheimer said. "It is: Can you stay in the game long enough to get the court to rule on it?"

Since WhoGlue holds the patent and has filed an infringement claim, the defendant - Facebook - now must show that the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office erred in issuing the patent, Oppenheimer explained.

"When a patent is issued, it has a presumption of validity," Oppenheimer said. "So the burden is on the defendant to show the agency made a mistake. ... The system is tilted in favor of the patent owner. [The courts] start with the presumption that the government did its job properly."

IPBiz notes that an infringement defendant can present invalidity AND/OR non-infringement AND/OR unenforceability defenses, so that it is incorrect to say Facebook "must" show the USPTO erred in issuing the patent.

As a footnote to the story, the WhoGlue patent was on an Ocean Tomo auction and did NOT sell. The Sun reported:

After WhoGlue was awarded the patent two years ago, it tried to sell it on the open market a year later. It listed U.S. Patent No. 7,246, 164 B2 - "Distributed Personal Relationship Information Management System and Methods" - for sale on June 26 with Ocean Tomo, an online auction site for intellectual property rights. But the patent didn't sell.

One might question whether trying to auction the patent is consistent with the text: "We patented it because it was core to our business.


Blogger New said...

Whether or not WhoGlue's claim is valid, at least now we have a new drama to follow in the world of patent litigation, since the recent "troll tracker" case has settled.

8:34 PM  

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