Awhile back, reporter Zusha Elinson (currently huddled under mosquito netting in some distant tropical jungle, the lucky stiff) wrote about big Silicon Valley companies becoming more willing to take patent infringement cases to trial rather than settle. A lot of big companies engaged in the making of actual products take a dim view of patent-holding companies that pretty much just sue people. While IP claims may get settled out as the cost-efficient solution, it sometimes leaves a bad taste for those who see the holding companies as parasitic “trolls” rather than, whatchamacallit, the heroic protectors of the IP rights of inventors and thinkers against the predatory behavior of big-bucks bullies that dominate the tech sector.
Yahoo gets knocked outta the saddle, after the jump.
Elinson’s piece, which looked particularly at what Yahoo’s legal department is up to in this regard, closed with a note about an upcoming trial:
Yahoo's [Jeanine] Hayes [who runs the IP dept.,] said the recession has actually helped her company go to trial, since law firms are desperate for work and more willing to accept flat-fee or alternative-fee arrangements. Normally, an average patent trial costs around $5 million.
Yahoo has four other trials scheduled for this year, aside from the one against CIA, which is a subsidiary of patent holding company Acacia Research Corp. CIA is accusing Yahoo of infringing on a patent for a "Background Advertising System." AOL [also named in the suit] settled out of the case last year.
Hayes will be in the Eastern District of Texas this week for the trial. Howrey's Henry Bunsow and Ireland Carroll & Kelley's Otis Carroll will be going for Yahoo. CIA is being represented by a who's who of Texas patent lawyers: Eric Albritton, T. John "Johnny" Ward Jr. and Anthony Simon.
In the wake of the verdict, Yahoo may be feeling a little less confident about its prospects for taking infringement suits to trial: SEC documents show that on Monday, Yahoo quietly arranged a confidential settlement with another Acacia outfit, Performance Pricing Inc. That case was one of four additional trials the search company was scheduled to face this year.
He has links those SEC documents [here's the verdict (.pdf)] and writeups of cases involving Microsoft and Sweet ’N Low sweetener.
— Brian McDonough