In a new age of large-scale patent assertion, Walker Digital may have outdone all earlier comers, including Intellectual Ventures, and the inexplicably notable Interval Licensing.
PaidContent.org staff reporter Joe Mullin asks:
Is Jay Walker jealous of Paul Allen? Allen got a lot of press when he sued 11 big internet companies last year, essentially saying he patented ideas like “related links.” Walker has been dabbling in the world of patent-trolling for over a year now, but with no such fanfare; …. Now maybe he’ll get his turn in the spotlight: he’s filed 15 lawsuits against more than 100 defendants, including Microsoft, eBay (NSDQ: EBAY), Amazon (NSDQ: AMZN), Facebook, WalMart, Groupon, Apple (NSDQ: AAPL), Sony (NYSE: SNE) and Google.
And Mullin isn’t the only one making this comparison. From PCMag.com:
The effort is similar to a patent battle currently being waged by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen. Allen sued Apple, Google, Facebook, and others in August on behalf of Interval Licensing LLC, which is part of Interval Research, the now defunct company founded in 1992 by Allen and David Liddle.
Right of the bat, I want to be clear about one thing: the only similarity between Allen’s activities and Walker’s is that they are both patent infringement lawsuits. That is pretty much where the similarities end. Interval Licensing claims to have invented “fundamental” web technologies, but is that literally true? I’ve already examined one of Interval’s patent claims in detail, and I honestly think that, while the technology may be in use, and it may be important, it certainly isn’t fundamental to the existence of the internet. In addition, Interval Research was an investment by Allen.
Walker, by contrast, is co-inventor on many of Walker Digital‘s patents. As far as the importance of Walker Digital’s patented technology, I didn’t see any bold claims about claiming credit to entire industries, though he has stated that “A number of great companies can trace their genesis to technology that was first developed at Walker Digital in the mid-to-late 1990s.” Whether this will prove to be true remains to be seen as people analyze the patent claims over the coming weeks and months. However, things already look positive from Walker’s perspective, as contributions by the likes of notable experts have already been recognized.
One thing is certain, however. Paul Allen’s lawsuit was, by many accounts, a fairly pedestrian effort (even falling victim to the fairly “rookie” mistake of getting too stingy with the details). Even the breadth of the accusations and depth of targets was on the “smallish” side. Lawsuits against 10 or 11 companies, while seemingly aggressive, probably happen to the tune of, at least, a couple of times per week. It is likely Allen’s connection to Microsoft that was the primary driver behind all of the media coverage.
Walker Digital’s action includes 36 different patents and over 130 companies named in 16 (not the reported 15) lawsuits, including several companies named in multiple lawsuits (up to 6 for Sony). For the rest of my career, I may never again witness a torrent of lawsuits this impactful.
Beyond Interval Licensing, however, is the other, dare I say, former 800 lb gorilla, Intellectual Ventures. Recall from Gametime IP in December:
Unless you’ve been under a rock, you’ve already heard the news. Not only has IV filed its first three lawsuits,but they’ve done it in a very public manner, issuing their own press release identifying the defendants and providing PDF copies of the complaints.
Well, Jay Walker’s boots on the ground have just made Nathan Myhrvold’s shoe look like a flip-flop. Think about it.
Not counting its “puppetmaster” litigation, IV has filed 3 lawsuits against 9 companies, asserting a total of 16 patents. Yes, a whopping 16 out of 30,000 patents that it spent over $2 Billion collecting. While Albert Pujols might be jealous of IV’s batting average*, Walker Digital stands to significantly outperform the 0.05% hit rate by monetizing more than 10% of its portfolio.
When it comes to patent licensing, quality is more important than quantity. Walker is capitalizing on research conducted through his firm specifically emphasizing strong intellectual property protection. IV, on the other hand, draws upon patents from a miscellaneous collection of businesses and inventors, with likely wide variances in investment and quality. That’s not to say that all inventors and small businesses get junky patents, but there was no single quality control in place when assembling IV’s portfolio. And if you don’t already, you should know that patent attorneys are not fungible.
Jay Walker’s statement said that he “hope[s] this effort will contribute to the process of moving the asset class of patents and Intellectual Property out of the stone age …” If, by that, he meant lifting us out of an age where we gauge the strength of the portfolio based on the number of stones, I think we’re on our way.
* In 15 years, when Albert is in the Hall of Fame, that joke probably won’t make any sense without the link …
- Behind Walker Digital’s Velvet Glove Lies An Iron Fist (gametimeip.com)
- Walker Digital Litigation: The Bruce Schneier Effect (And Other Miscellaneous Updates) (gametimeip.com)
- Jay Walker Goes Nuclear: Priceline Founder Sues More Than 100 Companies (paidcontent.org)
- Patent Litigation Experiences K-T* Event? (gametimeip.com)
- Don’t Fear The Licensor – Infringement Validates Importance Of Patented Technology (gametimeip.com)