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'Stupid Patent of the Month' Goes to Court

By William Vogeler, Esq. on April 17, 2017 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Adding injury to insult, an advocacy group has sued an alleged patent troll to protect its rights to publish a blog called "Stupid Patent of the Month."

The blog calls attention to "questionable patents that stifle innovation, harm the public and can be used to shake down unsuspecting users of commonplace processes or technologies," says the complaint filed by the Electronic Freedom Foundation in the U.S. District Court in San Francisco.

EFF had called out a patent claim by Global Equity Management, which then obtained an injunction against the company in Australia. The advocacy organization now seeks a declaratory judgment that the foreign court cannot enjoin the blog based on the First Amendment.

"Classic Patent Troll"

EFF first recognized Global Equity Management's patent as "Stupid Patent of the Month" in June 2016. The company wrote:

This month's stupid patent, US Patent No. 6,690,400, claims the idea of using "virtual cabinets" to graphically represent data storage and organization. While this is bad, the worse news is that the patent's owner is suing just about anyone who runs a website.

EFF went on to call Global Equity Management a "classic patent troll." The blog said the company, GEMSA, seemed to have no other business than patent litigation.

GEMSA sued for defamation in Australia, and then demanded EFF remove the post and pay $750,000. EFF refused and filed its action for declaratory relief and attorney's fees in the United States.

"Libel Tourism"

"The practice of bringing claims against U.S. citizens in foreign jurisdictions with lesser protections for speech -- known as 'libel tourism' -- has the pernicious effect of chilling Americans' lawful, constitutionally protected speech," the complaint says.

EFF says Congress enacted the SPEECH Act, 28 U.S.C. §§ 4101-05, to protect against that chilling effect. The Act provides that foreign judgments arising from U.S. citizens' speech are not enforceable if they do not pass muster under American legal and constitutional standards, the company says.

"We are going to court to ensure that EFF is not silenced by foreign laws that forbid speech our Constitution protects," said EFF Deputy Executive Director and General Counsel Kurt Opsahl. "GEMSA may not like what we've said about its patent, but we will defend our right to express our constitutionally protected opinion."

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