UPDATED 1/28/11 (SEE BELOW)
Samy Gharb is on a mission. Since November, he has been suing for infringement of his patent (USP 6,552,654) relating to mobile phones and security. Most recently, he sued Rockwell Automation, along with more or less the entire free world. The entire list is on Priorsmart, and includes companies like Fanuc, Cisco, and *ahem* Coca-Cola (seriously), numerous individuals, and a few government agencies (like NASA, Department of Commerce and the Department of Homeland Security). His previous cases have included the likes of Schneider Electric (and a slew of other companies and individuals) and Mitsuibishi Electric.
Mr. Gharb is evidently quite convinced that there is widespread infringement of his patent, and I’ve heard from a few readers that he has apparently been calling every contingent fee lawyer who will pick up the phone. None would take his case, evidently, so he went the pro se route.
Gharb’s complaint against Rockwell (you can download it here) is a 90 page bouillabaisse of names, arguments, news clippings, block diagrams and other various chunks of technical information. Make no mistake, any lawyer trying to file something as incoherent as this document would have it immediately kicked out by the court … but because Gharb is unrepresented, the court has done him a solid and agreed to construe his ramblings as a federal complaint.
Right before leading in to an Allen Bradley user manual, Gharb does finally cut to the case, on page 48:
57. In a polite request I ask United States District Court Northern District of Illinois to require an amount of compensation of 1.000.000.000 US$ from Mr [K—- N——-] General Manager Of Rockwell Automation because of infringement of my US Patent 6,554,654 during the period from (2000-2010) and for these huge damages to my US Patent.
Well, at least he asked nicely. Of course, you’d probably have to go back to the 1800’s (or at least pre 1950’s) to find a case where an employee of a company was found personally liable for patent infringement, so Mr. N is likely off the hook. Also, the patent didn’t issue until 2003, and it doesn’t look like his application was ever published, so I have no idea why he thinks he’s entitled to damages starting in 2000.
However, I suspect that the real reason Mr. Gharb has been unable to find a lawyer to take his case has more to do with the little yellow “M” at the upper left of the screen when you examine USP 6,552,654. Go ahead, check it out, and when you get there, click on the link that says “Maintenance.”
Unfortunately for Mr. Gharb, he let his patent expire back in 2007 when he ignored that helpful little reminder he received in 2006 to pay his first maintenance fee. At this point, he can only revive the patent with a few thousand dollars and a convincing argument that his delay in paying the fee was unavoidable. If he can’t, then those damages between 2007-2010? Gone, as is any chance at an ongoing royalty or injunction. Oh, and the damages starting in 2003? That was never gonna happen anyway, because the court can only award you damages accruing in the six years preceding the filing of your lawsuit. So basically, any claim Mr. Gharb might have had for damages would be between January 2005 and April 2007.
That’s likely too small of a damage pool to interest most contingent fee lawyers, and that’s not saying anything about the fact that Gharb will have to prove that each of these defendants is, you know, infringing. He seems pretty convinced, and he may, in fact, have a case … but unless he can get a legal team that will straighten out much of the mess he’s created, he will have a very tough, long road ahead.
A reader has pointed me to the Patent Hawk’s post Rutabaga. It seems Mr. Gharb is no stranger to federal courts, having previously been slapped with a permanent injunction prohibiting him from enforcing his patent against Unitronics. Of his case, the CAFC said:
None of the evidence put forward by Gharb shows that any Unitronics product contains the “digital recording device having at least one emergency message” or its equivalent, or the “data set for transmission to the mobile telephone including alarm information” or its equivalent, of the claimed security system. We find no evidence in the record suggesting that Unitronics made or sold any type of security system at all.
HT to Mike Wokasch for the link.