Friday, 1 July 2011

Twitter Patent Lawsuit

Patent Litigation involving Internet Companies is slowly becoming the norm of how business is conducted. Therefore, it was just a matter of time before Twitter got dragged in a patent lawsuit. A lawsuit has been filed against Twitter by VS Technologies in the court of Alexandria, Virginia. 

Most Internet companies prefer to contest such lawsuits in the tech-friendly courts of North California or on a neutral turf such as East Texas. Therefore, it was not surprising that Twitter has requested the lawsuit to be shifted from Virginia to Twitter's home turf, San Francisco. However, Twitter's request has been turned down by the  U.S. District Judge Henry Morgan who released an order denying the transfer and said that his court in Alexandria is the most appropriate place to contest the Lawsuit.

The plaintiff, VS Technologies is listed as a limited liability company. The patent in question is US 6,408,309, titled "Method and system for creating an interactive virtual community of famous people" was filed on February 23, 2000 and subsequently granted on June 12, 2002. The inventor as listed in the patent is one Mr. Dinesh Agarwal, who has stayed in Virginia for more than 25 years.

The '039 patent has a total of four independent claims. The first independent claim reads:

A method of creating an interactive virtual community of people in a field of endeavor, comprising the steps of:

a) selecting a field of endeavor; 

b) compiling a list of members in the selected field;

c) selecting a member from the compiled list of members based on a preselected factor;

d) obtaining biographical information about the selected member;

e) processing the biographical information in a preselected format to create a personal profile of the selected member;

f) publishing the profile of the selected member on a machine readable media; and

g) allowing the selected member to interact with the profile. 

Well, that's one hell of a claim and as usual one would be left scratching their head as to how it got granted in the first place. Also, if you read the claim carefully, you would be forced to think whether the "Twitter Users" are also infringing on the patent.

An interesting observation to be made is that Mr. Dinesh Agarwal, is himself a Twitter user, who even more surprisingly hasn't tweeted even once. The Twitter profile says that he is "screenwriter" and an Intellectual Property agent. It is believed that Mr. Dinesh created an account on Twitter to determine whether Twitter infringed on his patent.

Twitter had argued in the court that since Mr. Dinesh is a Twitter user and has agreed to Twitter's "terms and conditions" while creating the account, he is liable to follow those terms and conditions. One of the condition states that all lawsuits against Twitter has to be contested in San Francisco. However, the US District Judge Henry Morgan stated that patent lawsuits and the terms and conditions of using Twitter do not have any connection and he does not find any other reasons for transferring the case to San Francisco. 

There is very little information available on Internet for VS Technologies, and even little information available about whether the '309 patent has been practiced by VS plaintiff. These observations indicate that VS technologies is a part of "ever-increasing" Trolls who do not practice inventions or manufacture any product covered in the patents owned by them. Their sole purpose of existence is to amass patents and sue every company that they believe is infringing on their patents.

These are certainly testing times for Twitter, which has been sued four times prior to this lawsuit. Maybe they should "Tweet" this and let the world know.

What is your opinion? Is VS Technologies justified in filing the lawsuit or Twitter is the latest victim of patent trolling?

No comments:

Post a Comment