Twitter Triumphs In Patent Lawsuit
Orange County – Twitter won against V.S. Technologies LLC in an alleged infringement of a patent for “creating an interactive virtual community of famous people.” V.S. Technologies sought to recover $8.4 million from the popular microblogging service. It brought suit in Virginia, far from Twitter’s San Francisco and Silicon Valley home base in the hope that a local jury would rule against the West Coast technology company. However, this week the Virginia federal jury ruled that Twitter did not mimic the V.S. system covered by the patent and did not use patented technology for its social networking “browse interests” page. In addition, the jury invalidated the patent itself for not describing a new invention.
Twitter successfully argued that creating an Internet community was not novel, and that the “invention” had already been used by companies such as GeoCities and Who’s Who. Twitter presented several examples of websites offering similar features. According to Twitter spokesman, Sean Garrett, “While we would prefer to compete on the Internet rather than the courtroom, we will continue to vigorously defend groundless patent lawsuits filed against us.”
As it turns out, V.S. Technologies was a shell company created by a single lawyer for the purpose of suing Twitter. In the past decade, similar shell companies, called patent trolls, have filed scores of lawsuits against technology mammoths like Facebook and Google, winning millions of dollars. Often, these companies prefer to settle than to pay the high fees of defending the patent case at trial.
Twitter scored a victory for technology companies offering innovative services. It joined the ranks of Yahoo! and Microsoft, technology companies that have defended themselves against patent trolls in earlier lawsuits.
The V.S. Technologies patent, issued in 2002, falls under the category of a business method patent. The outcome of this case may suggest a move within the legal system to check the broad subject matter eligibility of business method patents.
Posted in: Patent Infringement