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A Patent Troll Backs Off

We scared them off... this time.

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tldr; The patent troll Jason Nguyen of Altair Logix couldn’t shake us down so he dropped the case. It cost us $12,645.

You can read our first post about this troll and other forms of extortion here.

Lesson #1) Find an attorney that’s as pissed about this as you are. We originally started with an IP firm recommended from our primary attorney. This firm was a poor fit for our case. At the same time, I had emailed the EFF on a Hail Mary and to my surprise, got a response! EFF FTW! They passed our case on to Joe Mullin who recommended we talk to Rachael Lamkin. After a few discussions with Rachael, it was an obvious fit and we were off to the races again. We should have done more homework rather than just hoping our local counsel, while excellent at solving day-to-day issues, could take care of a patent issue.

Lesson #2) Fight like hell. Every time a company settles it just funds the trolls to wreak more havoc. This is especially true for companies larger than $100 million in revenue. I’m looking at you Texas Instruments, VIA Technologies, Renesas, ASUS, Caterpillar, Nuvision International, and Netgear, just to name a few of the companies that have dealt with Jason Nguyen’s Altair Logix. When you roll over and pay the trolls it hurts smaller companies terribly. Fight to get the patent invalidated. Fight to hook the troll into the risk of paying legal fees. Use your settlements budgets to fight because the rest of us don’t have settlement budgets.

A good attorney will be able to dig up all sorts of patents that pre-date the troll’s patent. Here is our counterclaim response and affirmative defense to the original lawsuit. Things of note in the affirmative defense is the provenance of the patent ownership in Counterclaim 3: Failure to Mark. Here we can see the patent being purchased and sold through the two decades of its life:

  • Rupan Roy
  • Cognigine Corporation
  • Future Engine
  • Futurewei Technologies
  • Huawei Technologies
  • Altair Logix

Here you can view Altair Logix’ answers to our counterclaims. The highlighting is ours. Things of note: Altair Logix was formed June 12, 2018, or three months after the patent expired on February 27th, 2018. Patents are really screwed up investment vehicles that change value over time. In this case, Jason, smelling potential money, purchased an expired patent ‘434 from Huawei and then formed a shell company to start suing people.

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When my kids ask what I am working on, I show them cool pictures of glacier tracking devices in the Canadian Arctic (Devon Island, Nunavut) built with some of the products SparkFun invented. Do you ever wonder what patent trolls tell their children they do for a job?

Lesson #3) Anyone can sign up for Public Access to Court Electronic Records (PACER) to search and retrieve your own legal documents. While I was not privy to the phone calls between attorneys and the assigned Judge Jackson, we can read through the scheduling order to get a sense of the judge’s style. If you’re being sued, don’t feel obligated to get documents from your attorney. Save time and money by getting them yourself at $0.10 a page.

I hope you never get sued by a troll but if you do, take a deep breath. Realize you're not powerless. The more we all realize that and the more we band together, the more they go away.


Comments 10 comments

  • Well done SparkFun. Give em hell!

  • Way to go!!

  • To summarize Altair Logix answers to SF's counterclaims: "Altair lacks sufficient knowledge.." Also a riddle: What does Altair Logix make? Answer: Trouble. These people and the "attorneys" that represent them are pure garbage and don't care about how much they hurt other companies, and ultimately, people trying to make a living the honest way.

  • Patent trolls suck. Retired IP attorney here. In fact, my friend Anne invented the term, we believe, when we were both at Intel in the last century. Relax, however. She will not be suing you for the use of the term! Congrats on beating this rascal down. Now off to my XBee controlled drone.

  • I showed my support and offer congratulations best way I know how. I shopped on your site. I think I'll put together a navigation thingy.

  • Well done indeed. But reading through some of the documents: "Altair Logix admits that its accusation of infringement is directed to the Freescale i.MX6 SoC 1.2 GHz ARM Cortex A9 Quad Core CPU that includes a NEON coprocessor in each core".

    So they accuse Freescale of infringement??? that's ballsy. And stupid.

  • Congratulations on your hard fought victory! We value your work and products and the fact that you are so commited to them by defending your IP is proof that you deserve to win on the merits!

  • So as someone completely out of tune with how most court cases like this work, can you explain to me if there is any recompense for Sparkfun or the courts as a result of Altair Logix dropping the case? Did the taxpayers just pay the court for its time, or was Altair Logix responsible for some part of the bill? Would Sparkfun have had to counter sue in order to get damages that would pay for their court expenses?

    • Both sides likely had to pay court fees - courts basically never pickup the tab themselves. There can be a question of a party having to cover all court and attorney fees, but that only happens (and can happen) in a small subset of cases. This is almost certainly not one of those cases - and even if so, that would have happened during the closing of the case - you don't need to separately sue to recover the costs if you are eligible for them.

  • Nicely done. And that $12k was well-spent, it'll pay dividends in the long run.

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