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Texas Judge Sets Chilling Tone for Patent Trolls

By Jonathan R. Tung, Esq. on October 02, 2015 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

If there is one term in the legal community that generates widespread disdain, it's "patent troll." The term isn't exactly what we would call objective. But an ironic ruling by a US District Judge in Texas can be celebrated as a small victory against those who make a business out of filing bogus claims.

Eastern District of Texas: the Mecca of Patent Lawsuits

Texas is known throughout the profession as the go-to place for patent trolls. In a recent post by EFF lawyer Daniel Nazer, it is noted that 1,387 patent cases were filed in the Eastern District of Texas in the first half of 2015, amounting to a whopping 44.4 percent of all the nation's patent filings. These cases were mostly filed by the dreaded patent troll with no business other than to annoy people. The problem of patent trolls has become so widespread that there's now a crowdsourcing business dedicated to helping businesses.

The Nazer piece clearly explains what many have suspected for some time: filing in the Eastern District of Texas is a calculated tactic for plaintiffs. The prevailing notion amongst practitioners is that even the vaguest of subject matter are patentable in East Texas. This is forum shopping at its finest.

A Notable Ruling

Ironically, Federal Judge Rodney Gilstrap of the US District of East Texas recently granted a Motion to Dismiss by two defendants in a suit brought by eDekka LLC, a company that wears the crown of the most prolific patent troll of 2014. It appears that eDekka's modus operandi was to score a large swath of low settlements with large companies.

In a short 10 page opinion with far reaching implications, the court effectively wiped out 168 separate lawsuits filed by eDekka that relied on US Patent no. 6,266,674 -- this first reported by Texas Lawyer. Judge Gilstrap, who hears more patent cases than any other judge in the United States, essentially eliminated 10 percent of his patent docket with this bold stroke.

In the opinion of the judge, none of the claims made by eDekka had met the standard required for patenting. The ruling was also noteworthy because the judge allowed the defendants to submit a joint brief arguing why they should be allowed to recover attorney's fees. This is a 180 degree turn from judge Gilstrap's usual refusal of such grants in patent cases.

Judge Gilstrap's ruling will no doubt send reverberations throughout the patent community and at least make the business of patent trolling far less appealing to opportunists. Undoubtedly with the passage of time, Judge Gilstrap's case will be dissected and utilized by patent defendants in future cases.

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