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Unwired Planet Inc., a company that claims to have invented mobile Internet, stands poised to bring six different lawsuits in the United Kingdom. This is an unusual strategy since American courts are generally favored for such patent trolling suits.
Patent lawsuits in the UK are arduous and require special judge oversight. Additionally, American litigants are subject to the "American Rule," where each party pays for its own legal costs. In the UK, the loser is often responsible for the winner's attorney's fees. It's no wonder that America is the usual choice for Patent Trolls. So, Unwired's choice is a head scratcher.
Publicly Traded Patent Troll
Perhaps one reason that Unwired is even able to take on such a risky strategy is because it has a war chest that most other patent trolling companies simply lack. Unwired is a publicly traded company and this might allow them to take on more capital intensive moves. It's currently trading at around $0.75 per share. That's a long way from it's all time high of $21.85 back before the 2008 crash.
Unwired is a small company of 16 employees that operates out of a humble office suite in Reno, Nevada. In 2013, the company acquired a sizable portfolio of more than 2,000 patents from Ericcson AB, which is presumably, the main ammunition with which it brings suit. In court documents, Unwired claims that technology found in the phones of Apple, Samsung, and Huawei phones are "foundational to the modern mobile internet," according to ArsTechnica. The defending companies argue that the patents are invalid and that Unwired licensing fees are excessive.
A Sign of Changing Times?
Although America has generally been the go-to court for licensing companies (patent trolls), there are signs that this trend may be slowing. In a recent case in the Eastern District of Texas US Court, Judge Gilstrap granted a motion to dismiss another company's 168 separate trolling lawsuits. This is particularly notable because Texas is genearlly seen as the most permissive of all venues with regards to patent suits. In a twist of the knife, the judge even permitted the defendants in that case to submits reasons for collecting attorneys fees.
Perhaps Unwired can smell the change in the wind.