Unified Patents Inc. (Unified) has challenged patents asserted by this year’s three most prolific patent litigants: Shipping and Transit LLC, Sportbrain Holdings LLC, and Uniloc USA, Inc. These challenges are part of Unified’s ongoing efforts to protect technology areas (“zones”) from non-practicing entities (NPEs), more commonly referred to as “patent trolls.”
Together, these three NPEs sued more than 200 companies in 2016, accounting for almost 15% of patent cases filed against high-tech companies. Since 2010, the patents owned by Shipping and Transit (formerly owned by ArrivalStar, Inc.) have been asserted in over 450 patent suits. (For the latest patent litigation statistics, see Unified’s full 2016 Patent Dispute Report.)
NPEs often send demand letters and sue businesses as part of campaigns to get quick cash based on inexpensive, poor-quality patents. Faced with expensive litigation, companies are often forced to settle rather than bear the high cost of proving a patent invalid or unpatentable. This can cost companies millions of dollars in unnecessary legal fees and lost productivity. Payments to NPEs have resulted in a vicious cycle of litigation activity, especially in the high-tech sector.
Unified is the only company that refuses to pay off NPEs, instead disrupting and deterring them by challenging poor-quality patents. As part of it activities, Unified has analyzed the patentability of more than a hundred patents and filed almost 50 inter partes reviews (IPRs) since 2013. A catalog of some of the prior art collected on NPE patents can be found here, and a full listing of Unified’s IPR filings can be found here. Unified’s strategy stands in contrast to patent aggregators such as RPX ($RPXC) and Intellectual Ventures, which have paid NPEs hundreds of millions to purchase or license patents regardless of their invalidity.
Details of Unified’s recent actions include:
Shipping & Transit LLC (and its predecessor, ArrivalStar, Inc.) is a notorious patent troll who has been accused in court of sending more than 800 demand letters to small businesses, typically asking for tens of thousands of dollars in licensing fees. The asserted patent has been used in litigation against almost 100 companies and EFF has repeatedly documented its questionable activities (linked) It was also the first entity to be sued under Florida’s anti-patent troll law (linked).
Sportbrain, Inc. is a company that went out of business many years ago, but recently reemerged as an NPE by suing almost 60 companies (to date) on a single patent that Unified believe is invalid and recently challenged before the USPTO. Sportbrain has sued, among others, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Medtronic, shoe and apparel companies, and many device manufacturers.
Uniloc is a well known NPE that has sued dozens of companies over that past five years and has reportedly forced companies to make multi-million dollar settlements. Uniloc has filed multiple new suits in the past two months on varying portfolios of patents it has never practiced.