Earlier this year, together with Durie Tangri, EFF stepped in to defend a photo hobbyist facing a patent suit. The patent owner, Garfum.com Corporation, claimed to have invented competitions on social networks where users vote for the winner. Garfum recently abandoned its lawsuit. Yesterday, we filed a motion asking the court to declare the case ‘exceptional’ and award our client attorneys’ fees.
Back in February, we filed a motion to dismiss Garfum’s claims, arguing that its patent was invalid because it claimed an abstract idea implemented on conventional computers and networks. Garfum responded with an opposition brief arguing that its so-called invention could not be implemented with “conventional database” technology. This supremely silly argument (databases have been used to count votes for decades), was explicitly contradicted by Garfum’s own patent. The patent itself states, twice, that “conventional database packages” could be used.
Little wonder then, that after the court scheduled a hearing date for our motion, Garfum quickly dismissed its claims rather than defend its patent before a judge. The idea that you could patent an abstract idea, find innocent enthusiasts online and demand settlement money—and then slink away once challenged and before the court issues a ruling—goes against any sense of fair play.
We hope that the court awards attorneys’ fees. Fee awards will encourage other defendants to stand up to weak patent suits instead of paying nuisance settlements. As many others have observed, this is one of the key ways that courts can deter abusive patent litigation.