Science Fiction, Patent Haters and Useless Federal Complaints

Once again patent haters are beating the old worn out drum, or are they?  Several weeks ago Global Findability, Inc. brought a patent infringement lawsuit against Summit Entertainment, LLC and Escape Artists, LLC, in the United States Federal District Court for the District of Columbia.  The complaint alleges that Global Findability is the owner by assignment of US Patent No. 7,107,286, titled “Integrated Information Processing System for Geospatial Media.”  The complaint, which has  no useful information to determine a viable legal theory, nakedly alleges upon information and belief that “defendants Summit and Escape, LLC created, used, offer for sale and/or sell geospatial entity object code… in its product film entitled ‘Knowing’.”  Believe it or not, that is really all the complaint says.  There is absolutely no discussion as to how the patent is being infringed, which seems to be the growing standard patent litigation by ambush tactic these days.  While I have absolutely no problem with patent owners, even patent trolls (aka non-practicing entities), vigorously enforcing patent rights, there is something fundamentally unfair about patent complaint by ambush.  If this is not a violation of the Rules of Civil Procedure (which I think it is) then is certainly should be!

Global Findability has created a real mess here, and is certainly not doing the patent community any favors.  At every opportunity patent haters will take shots, justified or not, at the patent system and use it to parade a supposed list of evils that are enabled by the patent system.  Utter nonsense I know, but in all fairness I have a hard time slinging too much mud relating to this situation, although I will sling some no doubt.  With Global Findability initiating a ridiculously incomplete and uninformative patent infringement lawsuit against the creators of the Nicolas Cage movie Knowing, those with an agenda against patents and/or those who know nothing about patents or law in general run crazy with speculation and are extraordinarily careless with truth, which doesn’t seem to be anything they concern themselves with ever anyway.

If you can believe it, there are a variety of individuals across the Internet reporting that Global Findability is suing the creators of Knowing for patent infringement based on the fact that the plot of the film relates to an encoded message that is discovered to have predicted the date of every major tragedy for the last 50 years.  If you have not seen the movie, to get a flavor watch the brief trailer below.  Apparently, the patent haters are saying that Global Findability is suing the makers of the movie because the science-fiction plot, devices, methods and/or code referenced in the movie infringes the patent.  Absolutely crazy!

The trouble is that while this uniformed theory of the case is crazy, I can see how those who are uniformed could rush to such a ridiculous conclusion based on the fact that the complaint filed provides absolutely no useful information that in any way suggests what it is that the defendants allegedly did to infringe the patent.  While the responsible thing to do would have been not to write about the story, or inform themselves with respect to the truth, the reality is the inadequate complaint allows those who are not interested in the truth to let their imaginations run wild.  The cost, of course, is that this is yet another episode where public sentiment will be turned against the patent system for no good reason.  Admittedly, it is not as bad a case as the lies told (and unfortunately bought) by the popular press (thanks to the ACLU) relating to the Patent Office granting patents over your body to corporate America (which is simply not true), but disregard for the requirement that a complaint must put the defendant on notice has allowed those with an agenda to pull out the patent whip and wreak havoc once again.

Those who are pointing to this litigation as ridiculous clearly have not read the patent in question.  No where in the patent is the word “predict” used, so there is no way that anyone who took any time to inform themselves could have thought that the patent related to any kind of method of predicting the future.  In fact, the only time the word “future” is used is to talk about “future upgrades” being possible.

Probably the best, brief summary of what this invention relates to can be found at the beginning of the Detailed Description.  The first two sentences explains:

The present invention is an integrated system of hardware and software modules for processing visual, audio, textual, and geospatial information. The integrated system uses a preferred process and architecture for improved data throughput, security, and scalability.

One particular paragraph in the Background should largely suffice to set up the problem this invention seeks to address, and says:

Because the information contained in a geographic information system such as the TIGER/Line™ files must be continually updated to reflect the most recent changes in the information contained therein, it is desirable to provide a method for collecting and processing video and spatial position information in a manner that allows updated attribute information to be tied to previously obtained spatial positional information.

So even a casual read of the patent in question would have informed those who wrote their own sci-fi fantasy regarding the theory of the case that they were wrong. They didn’t even have to read the claims for crying out loud! Of course, the claims will ultimately determine whether there is infringement. Given that the complaint offers absolutely no theory and identifies no claims that might be infringed, spending any time looking at the claims at this point seems a fools errand if you ask me. Suffice it to say for now that various of the claims cover a geospatial media recorder, an acquisition module for acquiring geospatial data, and a geospatial information processing method. I don’t see anything about science fiction, nothing about predicting the future, nothing about decoding an encrypted message.

It would appear that Global Findability has and will allow themselves to be used as the whipping post for those who see only evil in patents, technology and innovation. The fact that they willing allowed this to happen because of a woefully inadequate complaint is disheartening, although unfortunately not atypical. If Congress ever does get around to patent reform, and those who vilify patent trolls because they want to copy technology without paying for it can actually look past their selfish motives, perhaps we can all agree that patent litigation by ambush via complaints that say nothing need to be stopped. If you have a patent enforce it all you want, but if you cannot articulate any kind of a theory all you are doing is starting a witch hunt or going on a fishing expedition in hopes of being such a large pain in the behind that a settlement payment is achieved. I believe the term for that type of payment is extortion, and it needs to stop.

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3 comments so far.

  • [Avatar for Alan McDonald]
    Alan McDonald
    December 10, 2009 04:25 pm

    Time once again for me to renew my call for district court judges to enforce Rule 11 sanctions, which they never seem to do.

  • [Avatar for Gene Quinn]
    Gene Quinn
    December 10, 2009 12:40 pm

    James-

    That is a good question, and it is impossible to know at this point. There may well be merit to a patent infringement claim, but I think the first order of business should be to seek dismissal of the complaint based on the fact that it contains no factual assertions and there is no way for it to be defended. Courts are loathe to dismiss complaints though, and would likely grant leave to amend, which is typically liberally granted at least once. So the defendants will likely have to waste tens of thousands of dollars before they can ever get to the point where they have any hope of determining what the plaintiff’s theory is and whether there is any merit.

    Even if this were to resolve once and for all relatively quickly I would anticipate $100K plus being spent by the defendants. But what is quick? Motions to dismiss are rarely granted, leave to amend is typically granted, so that means they would likely need to fight through at least some discovery and into Summary Judgment. If the case has merit and actually proceeds through discovery and to trial, then you are easily talking $1 million or more for attorneys, perhaps much more.

    -Gene

  • [Avatar for James Love]
    James Love
    December 10, 2009 12:29 pm

    You describe the complaint in pretty harsh terms. How much money do you think it will take the defendant to put this to rest?