Do Patent Infringement Litigants WANT an Inefficient Dispute Resolution Process?

Now that my step-son is no longer my legal assistant (sniff) but an IP litigator with one of the best IP firms in the country (Irell & Manella) he’s a source!!

Yesterday I asked him this question:  which patent infringement litigants benefit from the inefficiencies of the patent litigation process — particularly those who are involved in protracted litigation like those lawsuits recently settled by Nokia and Qualcomm.

“Other than parties with frivolous lawsuits,” I said, thinking that only marginal (but well-heeled) players might benefit from a system that was procedurally encrusted; unpredictable; costly; and, time consuming.

I’ve asked Adam to just allow the question to bounce around in his head for awhile as he litigates one of those infringement monsters that the Big Kids litigate.  Though he’s new to the profession, it’s often the young attorneys who see the process in unconventional and innovative ways because they haven’t been doing the exact same thing for 25 years.  At least that’s how it felt to me coming into the profession nearly 30 years ago.

Now I’m asking the same question of my readers — how do the inefficiencies of patent infringment litigation benefit the parties?

To help prime the pump, I’m passing along without comment this article on the use of litigation to extract license monies from companies making products by one that doesn’t as reported by the Communications and Technology Blog on Rates Technology Inc.   Excerpt below.

Rates Technologies has sued Nortel, Sharp Electronics and others. Apparently in 1998 the Wall Street Journal quoted Mr. Weinberger in an article titled “Payoff Pending,” on December 7, 1998:

In the end, Mr. Marshall might have to sue some company for patent infringement — and do so successfully — before the industry takes his rights seriously. Mr. Marshall “had better be prepared to spend more than $1 million on prosecution, because that’s what would be required,” says Gerald J. Weinberger, president of Rates technology Inc., a Hauppauge, N.Y., company that says it has gone to court six times to prosecute patents in the telecommunications field. Mr. Weinberger says an aggressive stance in court is crucial to any enterprise based on patent licensing. “You don’t get any licensees unless the parties become convinced that you will litigate,” he says

Jerry Weinberger [of RTI told]  . . . . me that [h]e has agreements in place with 76 large companies such as Huawei Technologies, Lucent, and Cisco at this time. He says the larger companies understand how intellectual property rights work in the US while the smaller ones usually don’t.

The following are statements from an e-mail from Jerry Weinburger:

When an infringer will not discuss their alleged patent infringement with RTI, there is little else that RTI can do except to pursue its remedies for the (willful) infringements in a court of competent jurisdiction. The remedies which RTI then seeks include damages, treble damages, a permanent injunction against further making, using, selling, offering for sale, and importing of the infringing products and services for the remaining lives of the Patents, payment of RTI’s legal fees, and a product recall of all examples of those infringing items.

Although infringement is based upon a specific evaluation of a company’s product(s) the ‘085 and ‘769 patents generally apply to hybrid cellphones, gateways, IP Phones, IP PBX’s, edge routers, core routers, PC computers, ITSPs, and VoIP products, services and technologies, among several other telecommunications products, services and technologies.

Companies who decide to be covered under RTI Covenant Not Sue (“CNS”) agreements are making a combined business and patent determination. The larger companies are easier to deal with, because they have many in house patent attorneys, and they do not feel that they are being roughed- they are making an informed business decision. Smaller companies tend to not respect the intellectual property of others. All makers, users, sellers, and importers are responsible for an infringement, and infringement is determined based upon direct, induced and contributory infringement; all allowing for interpretation of the Patents claims under the Doctrine of Equivalents.

In total [RTI has] agreements in place with 700-800 companies and have litigated 25 times in 15 years.  . . . . Occasionally [says Weinberger] smaller companies want to negotiate and/or sue. Litigation he says costs about 2 million dollars.

 So how does it work? Generally his company contacts your company and shows you their patents. Your company then checks with its patent attorneys to see what infringes and what doesn’t. If you want to be covered, you pay a one-time fee based on five tiers — according to highest parent companies’ worldwide sales… They do not deviate from these tiers. In exchange you get a covenant protecting you from a lawsuit.


Victoria Pynchon

Attorney-mediator Victoria Pynchon is a panelist with ADR Services, Inc. Ms. Pynchon was awarded her LL.M Degree in Dispute Resolution from the Straus Institute in May of 2006, after 25 years of complex commercial litigation practice, with sub-specialties in intellectual property, securities fraud, antitrust, insurance coverage, consumer class actions and all… MORE >

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