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Patent-infringement lawsuit against Fark settled for zero dollars. Also, patent trolls suck hairy donkey balls
Posted by Drew at 2011-08-10 10:59:00 AM (360 comments) | Permalink

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18074 clicks; posted to Main » on 10 Aug 2011 at 11:00 AM (11 years ago)   |   Favorite    |   share:  Share on Twitter share via Email Share on Facebook

A lot of you were already aware that Fark was sued by a patent troll back in January. I wanted to share that as of today, after eight months of legal work, that lawsuit was dismissed.

Here's the tl;dr version:

Their patent had nothing to do with Fark. The patent troll realized we were going to fight them instead of settle, so they asked for our best offer. I said how about you get nothing and drop the lawsuit? They accepted.


Normally, we wouldn't be able to talk about any of the details. Terms of patent lawsuit settlements are usually bound by ironclad nondisclosure agreements. NDAs allow patent trolls to extract maximum settlements from each entity they've filed lawsuits against - as a result no one knows who paid what. In the last round of settlement negotiations we asked to strike the NDA provision. They agreed (and to the attorneys out there reading this, I'm as baffled as you are).

Striking the NDA was crucial because I wanted to be able to tell everyone what really happened: we didn't pay them a single dime.

The patent covered a method for inputting news releases into a web form, which would then compile the news release and email it to media outlets. Now, aside from the fact that a ton of prior art exists and that the patent should never have been awarded in the first place, Fark and all the other websites named in the lawsuit don't produce "news releases". In the world of journalism, the term "news release" is equivalent to "press release" - the patent itself equates the two in the opening description. Could a judge have ruled otherwise? Sure. They've been known to rule that the sky is green - which is why this lawsuit was dangerous.

As much as I'd like to fight the good fight, we reluctantly decided against pursuing a counterclaim against the patent holder. Too expensive--as in a couple million dollars too expensive, years of legal wrangling, and no guarantee of recovering all of the spent money by the time it was over. I sincerely hope someone still in the case with deeper pockets pursues these guys. I'm happy to help in any way I can. Unfortunately, Yahoo settled a while back, and Conde Nast settled out for Reddit this week. AOL is still in it though, I believe they're inclined to hang in - especially given what happened with Fark settling for nothing.

At any rate, this bullshiat is finally over. It was a nightmare. Imagine someone breaking into your home, then being forced to sit on the couch while their lawyers file motions over how much stuff they can take. My wife Heather said my first draft of this post sounded too angry, probably due to the fact that every third word was an f-bomb (among other things I paraphrased our best one-time settlement offer as "how about jack sh*t and go f*ck yourself", which may be a more accurate depiction of how I really felt at the time). I won't lie though, I was angry and I am still. Too much money was wasted on this, too many sleepless nights, too many hours away from running Fark, and all this because someone else decided that suing companies for bearing a vague resemblance to their patent (patents they don't even appear to use themselves) is a good business model. We're short a full-time employee thanks to these douchebags.

I'm just glad it's over. Huge thanks to Legal Team Fark at Roetzel & Andress, who were able to quickly grasp the reasons why this patent lawsuit was bullshiat and hone those arguments into legal nightmares for the plaintiff. I can't recommend them highly enough to anyone going through a similar situation. After all, when's the last time you saw a patent lawsuit settled for zero dollars? Pretty rare.

All right that's it, let's get back to funny news. C'mon Florida, don't fail me now.
· · ·

360 Comments     (+0 »)

Oldest | « | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | » | Newest | Show all

2011-08-10 11:25:26 AM  

LessO2: Congratulations Drew!

Free Total Fark for everyone to celebrate? Yes?

For you at least? Why not?
2011-08-10 11:25:39 AM  
I would be more than happy to go to the office of the patent trolls and fart loudly and often, while giving them a feng shui adjustment of the office furniture.
2011-08-10 11:26:47 AM  

Karma Curmudgeon: So, what you're actually saying Drew, with extended pinky to the corner of your mouth, is that actually, crime does pay.


[image from too old to be available]
2011-08-10 11:27:09 AM  
Nicely written, Drew. You didn't come off as enraged, but righteously indignant, and that's cool.

It sucks that someone's attempt at a cash grab ended up costing you and friends so much in time, stress, and money (lawyer's fees, yeah?). There ain't no justice. :\
2011-08-10 11:27:12 AM  

Inflatable Rhetoric: These are not patent trolls, in the sense that they troll for comments. They file lawsuits in the hope that people will just pay them off, because it's often less expensive than legal costs, even if you're in the right.

Parasites is a better term.

"Patent tapeworms" - I like it!!
2011-08-10 11:27:22 AM  
Yay! (new window)
2011-08-10 11:27:28 AM  
I'm more of the opinion that a horse's head might send a better message.


/congrats Drew. WTG
2011-08-10 11:28:04 AM  
Very good news.

In tribute, I'm ending all future headline submissions with "[article subject] suck(s) hairy donkey balls".
2011-08-10 11:28:11 AM  
Excellent to hear Drew. I'm glad you kicked those idiots in the balls.
2011-08-10 11:28:31 AM  

IXI Jim IXI: So do we all get a free month of Total fark in celebration?

I was thinking the price of TF would have to go up now with legal fees and all...

Conratulations Fark staff! and Drew
2011-08-10 11:29:00 AM  

Earguy: Andrew Wiggin: great, no more boobie threads.

Are you kidding? We should celebrate with a boobie thread! Shoot, *this* should be a boobie thread!

/can't post pics from my phone

Make it even more epic and combine boobie thread and redhead thread. There is no better way to celebrate this victory.
2011-08-10 11:29:09 AM  

RexTalionis: As a patent attorney, patent trolls irk me.

I'd imagine. They make it much harder for people enforcing actual, real-world patents.
2011-08-10 11:29:25 AM  
makes me happy.
2011-08-10 11:29:28 AM  
"Could a judge have ruled otherwise? Sure. They've been known to rule that the sky is green - which is why this lawsuit was dangerous"

Well, if the patent specification says that the sky is green, then the sky is green as to the claims of that patent. Otherwise, ordinary meaning to one of skill in the art of "news release" controls, which as you said, Fark doesn't do. "News release" seems to have a pretty clear meaning, and I suspect those guys knew it/realized it once you showed you were going to fight and were not going to give them any money, hence accepting a "take nothing" settlement offer - these guys surely were on contingency and knew it was just going to waste their time continuing to come after you, and time is money to them.

Instead of a counterclaim, if you wanted to fark with these guys and maybe get their patent invalidated but not spend millions, and you know the "tons of prior art" that's out there, you could always do an ex parte reexamination request. That'd cost way less -- lawyer fees for preparing the reexam request, and the PTO fee for filing it. Once you file that request you see what happens. Or an inter partes reexam, which is more expensive but you get to keep participating after you've filed the request (in the ex parte once you file and the PTO finds a substantial new question of patentability, you have no say, it's all between the PTO and the patentee). It's possible you could even negotiate a flat fee with a firm for doing the reexam so you'd know what you were going to pay (rather than paying by the hour). The reexam doesn't even have to say it was Fark if you don't want -- the attorney you hire can file it in his name/the firm's name without revealing who hired them to do it.

And yes, that is shocking that they acquiesced on the NDA. Deleting that from a settelement agreement is the sort of thing you try as an attorney assuming it will never work.
2011-08-10 11:30:03 AM  
t0.gstatic.comView Full Size

You can have my answer now, if you like. My final offer is this: nothing.
2011-08-10 11:30:19 AM  
"All right that's it, let's get back to funny news. C'mon Florida, don't fail me now."

2011-08-10 11:30:51 AM  
Awesome! I had something similar happen 3 years ago. It wasn't a patent case though. Oh and I won a judgement for $5000. The no money changing hands part is the same....shiat....
2011-08-10 11:31:19 AM  

IXI Jim IXI: So do we all get a free month of Total fark in celebration?


/Awe, come on, I still don't have a job.
//That's right ladies, an unemployed 40-something posting on TF. You KNOW you want some of this.
2011-08-10 11:32:39 AM  
You got over it. *cheers*

/so this means you're hiring?
2011-08-10 11:33:10 AM  
does that mean you have enough dough to give me a year of TF?
2011-08-10 11:34:09 AM  
Drew, you should add "how about jack sh*t and go f*ck yourself" to the rotating Fark slogan thingie.
2011-08-10 11:34:10 AM  
Drew Perhaps it's time for a Tampa Florida Fark Party!

2011-08-10 11:34:24 AM  

TheMaskedArmadillo: Anyone got a picture of the squirrel with big balls?

Good job Drew!

i.imgur.comView Full Size
2011-08-10 11:35:01 AM  
Weird. I just listened to the This American Life podcast on how patent trolls work (link) and got really pissed about it.

Patent laws need to change. Software is language not invention.
2011-08-10 11:35:01 AM  
Excellent news, Drew!!

I'm really happy to hear that they got zero from you (aside from the attorneys). Hope that this sets a precedent, and like you said, that others with deeper pockets can sue these bastards out of existence and make examples out of them.

I had no idea that this was such a bother to you, I can't imagine, ugh. Sorry you've had to deal with this, but at least there's a bit of catharsis now...
2011-08-10 11:35:20 AM  

The Onanist: IXI Jim IXI: So do we all get a free month of Total fark in celebration?


/Awe, come on, I still don't have a job.

Same here. Except I'm almost half your age.
2011-08-10 11:35:26 AM  
Crappy headline, should be replaced with "how about jack sh*t and go f*ck yourself".

Congratulations and thanks for fighting a good fight.
2011-08-10 11:35:44 AM  

Devil's Playground: Was meow said the dog the judge in the case?


2011-08-10 11:36:26 AM  
I am curious to know if the patent trolls' Office, Operating System, and other softwares are completely legal. Microsoft, Apple, et al should investigate.

//Bet you see a big drop in patent trolls.
2011-08-10 11:37:05 AM  
This is one of the many reasons why patents (along with copyright) need to be done away with permanently. Even when used "properly" they are a detriment to the development of the arts and sciences.
2011-08-10 11:37:11 AM  
If anyone missed the patent troll episode on this american life (new window), I just heard it and it was pretty good.

oh and congrats Drew (and thanks for not giving in!)

//patent trolls are the worst species of scum
2011-08-10 11:37:36 AM  
As much as I'd like to fight the good fight, we reluctantly decided against pursuing a counterclaim against the patent holder.

I wish I could tell you that Drew fought the good fight, and the patent trolls let him be. I wish I could tell you that - but Fark is no fairy-tale world. He never said who did it, but we all knew. Things went on like that for awhile - Fark life consists of routine, and then more routine. Every so often, Drew would show up with fresh lawsuits. The patent trolls kept at him - sometimes he was able to fight 'em off, sometimes not. And that's how it went for Drew - that was his routine. I do believe those first two years were the worst for him, and I also believe that if things had gone on that way, this place would have got the best of him.
2011-08-10 11:38:20 AM  
Please to Weeners draft of this for giggles.
2011-08-10 11:38:40 AM  



2011-08-10 11:38:50 AM  

Odd Bird: Crappy headline, should be replaced with "how about jack sh*t and go f*ck yourself".

Congratulations and thanks for fighting a good fight.

i also think that this should be done.

in honor of the victory

3.bp.blogspot.comView Full Size
2011-08-10 11:38:54 AM  
Great news, Drew. Now, let's go get smashed and hassle some hookers.
2011-08-10 11:39:37 AM  
(spelled out) draft becomes weeners? Who knew?
2011-08-10 11:39:43 AM  
*pokes head back in*

In all seriousness Drew, very happy for you. I certainly enjoy what you've built here and the worry that someone was going to get some of that for nothing must have been infuriating. Good on you for sticking it out and squashing the little maggot.

To the troll:

bbsimg.ngfiles.comView Full Size
2011-08-10 11:39:57 AM  
choosepp.netView Full Size

"I'll get you next time, Drew! Next time!"
2011-08-10 11:40:21 AM  

Yeah, it would have been nice to get the counterclaim and win. The only way these assholes will ever be stopped is with good legal precedent.
2011-08-10 11:40:47 AM  
Well done. This is the exact reason why non-disclosure obligations are included in settlement contracts. These guys really screwed up by letting that one go.

Considering that it is a negotiated deal, however, perhaps you should run a serial on how bad these people are. Name names and lawyers. Have fun.
2011-08-10 11:41:58 AM  
*issues licensing fee to Das Kiwizoid *
2011-08-10 11:42:16 AM  
Great news!

Wish we could have read the post from "Angry Drew".
2011-08-10 11:42:45 AM  
My final offer is this: nothing. Not even the fee for the gaming license, which I would appreciate if you would put up personally.
2011-08-10 11:42:47 AM  
"...we asked to strike the NDA provision. They agreed."

I write legal briefs for the state of MI for a living, and just asked around a bit. Nobody within my immediate reach has ever even heard of this happening. They just said, "OK"? Without even arguing about it? The only thing I can surmise is that their counsel is getting sick of representing douchebags and is getting purposefully sloppy in order that these assclowns can be fully outed to the world. Since you have no NDA, you can tell the world who they are, right? You can name names. I'd go ahead and do it. Carefully, of course.

Unleash the power of Fark on their sorry asses.
2011-08-10 11:42:59 AM  

ohmyvariousgods: Please to Weeners draft of this for giggles.

lol, awesome
2011-08-10 11:43:03 AM  
Go Drew! Next time you have a problem... don't waste the money on the big time law talking guys. There are hundreds of Farkers with GED's in law who will take the case.

If that doesn't pan out... let me recommend you to the firm that's been handling all my families legal work for years.
feeds2.yourstorewizards.comView Full Size
2011-08-10 11:43:03 AM  

DigitalCoffee: Bartleby the Scrivener: I can hear how much anger this produced. But I think sending a small gift might help make amends in order to bring closure to this conflict. I suggest a hot cocoa sampler box.

I'm more of the opinion that a horse's head might send a better message.

Or maybe a pizza...
img100.imageshack.usView Full Size

2011-08-10 11:43:47 AM  
The patent system needs an opposition concept like they have with Trademarks.

That is: new applications are posted for community review, and anyone with a beef (prior art, etc) can submit that information to the examiners to consider in making the grant/deny decision. In practical use, the big guys watch those postings like a hawk, as the dollar amounts at risk demand it. Though already-granted patents would remain a concern for some time, things would progressively get better for the small developer, as they benefit from the big guys beating the crap out of every new posting. The EFF could even get in on it, letting some attorneys put pro-bono time toward perusing particularly broad applications.

And the problem would largely be solved, with a minimum of contentious debate over things like ending all software/method patents, abandoning the patent system, etc.
Not to say those arguments are *wrong*, necessarily, but they have a snowball's chance in hell of succeeding.
2011-08-10 11:43:59 AM  
Happy to see a good outcome, but realize that this is one of many you'll face. The patent system is broken and lawyers are parasites drawn to success like flies to crap. They make money regardless, so there's literally zero reason not to just keep filing lawsuits until someone caves in.

Been through it several times myself, and over the years have gone from "oh shiat we have to settle" to "fark them, drag it out, countersue, and if necessary, close up shop before paying a dime." It hasn't got any less expensive, but it is certainly easier knowing what I'm going to do from the moment the papers show up.
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