Did one Stupid Patent of the Month winner enforce its patent in an exceptional manner, so much so that it has to pay defendants’ attorneys’ fees? That is a question a court in the Eastern District of Texas is being asked to decide, with a public hearing on the matter scheduled for August 15, 2017.

We’d like to tell you why the defendants think they should win, but unfortunately we can’t. We’d also like to tell you why the patent owner, My Health Inc., thinks the defendants should lose, but again we can’t. The facts, law, and the parties’ arguments were filed completely under seal.

Because we believe that the parties have no legitimate reason to keep the vast majority of this information from the public, EFF has moved to intervene [PDF] in the case in order to defend the public’s First Amendment and common law rights of access to court records.

Court records are vital to understanding the current state of patent litigation. EFF regularly relies on court filings to report on issues of public concern, and to gather data and facts to help us better advocate on behalf of the public interest. More importantly, as one court said, “[p]ublic confidence [in our judicial system] cannot long be maintained where important judicial decisions are made behind closed doors and then announced in conclusive terms to the public, with the record supporting the court’s decision sealed from public view.”

Sometimes, there are good reasons why certain information filed with a court should not be made public. For example, sometimes the name of an anonymous speaker should not be revealed even if someone sues them. But it is rarely appropriate to keep entire briefs, arguments, and judicial opinions hidden from public view. 

This is yet another instance—unfortunately, common in courts across the country—of papers submitted to the court being kept from the public, despite no showing having been made to the court that such secrecy is deserved. EFF has twice moved to unseal records in patent cases in the Eastern District of Texas, and twice courts have unsealed materials that never should have been completely sealed in the first place. We hope we once again succeed at shining even just a little more light on one patent owner’s attempt to enforce what we believe to be a stupid patent.