In an welcome display of common sense, the Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal of an appeal of a decision of a lawsuit brought on by a patent troll, excuse me, I mean a “non-practicing entity”.
If you hadn’t heard, the company known as Soverain Software bought some patents from a company who bought some patents from a company who registered a patent. The patents were for a “shopping cart”. Soverain Software then proceeded to file (or threaten to file) patent infringement suits against several large online retailers in order to extort a percentage of every sale/use of their patented shopping cart. This isn’t Soverain’s first rodeo. Their list of targets included companies like Nordstrom’s, Macy’s, Home Depot, Radioshack, Kohl’s, Best Buy, RadioShack, Drugstore.com, and Walgreens. They scored a $40M settlement from Amazon. They won approx $9M + 1% going forward EACH from Victoria’s Secret and Avon. Their ultimate goal was to get a cut from EVERY sale made online using a shopping cart. Think about the staggering amount of money that would be.
It’s more than that – think of it this way: Soverain Effectively patented the most obvious way to walk to a store, put things in a cart, take them to the register and pay for them. Imagine some arsehole doing that to every person. Everyone has to find an unpatented means of going to the store, getting things to the “register” (which for the patent avoidance will be something completely unregister like) and paying (“I choose to steal from you, but tip you handsomely for having a nice store”) It’s beyond absurd – like most software patents.
Sounds crazy right? It is. The patent system is so broken, it’s ridiculous. Something as standard and obvious as a shopping cart should NEVER be allowed to be patented.
Well, Newegg (one of my FAVORITE places to shop, btw) decided to hold the line against Soverain and take the battle all the way. They lost the original lawsuit in which the judge said the jury was not supposed to decide the merits of the patent only whether or not Newegg infringed on those patents. So Newegg then won the appeal by invalidating the patents.
Ars Technica has a GREAT writeup on the entire ordeal including more details about all the pending lawsuits (there are many) and an interview with Newegg’s lawyer Lee Cheng (a legal hero in my book) who won the case not just for Newegg, but the entire online retail industry. In fact every one of those companies involved should send Mr Cheng a fruit basket or Starbucks gift card.