San Francisco - The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), together with Durie Tangri LLP, is defending a photo hobbyist against an outrageous patent suit from a company that claims to hold the rights to online competitions on social networks where users vote for the winner.

“It’s part of our job to identify stupid patents and to try to get rid of them, and this is one of the silliest I have ever seen,” said EFF Staff Attorney Daniel Nazer, who is also the Mark Cuban Chair to Eliminate Stupid Patents.  “Our client has been running ‘vote-for-your-favorite-photo’ polls for years, just for fun and the love of photography.  The idea that you could patent this abstract idea—and then demand a settlement to go away—goes against both patent law and common sense.”

EFF’s client runs, which has hosted user-submitted photos and run competitions for the best since 2003.  In 2007, a company called applied for a patent on the “Method of Sharing Multi-Media Content Among Users in a Global Computer Network.”  The patent, U.S. Pat. No. 8,209,618, takes the well-known concept of a competition by popular vote and applies it to the modern context of generic computer networks—despite the fact that courts have ruled that this kind of abstract idea using generic computer technology cannot be patented.

In September of last year, Garfum used this patent to accuse EFF’s client of infringement, and filed suit.  In the motion to dismiss the complaint, EFF argues that the patent should be declared invalid.

“Patents like this improperly interfere with the ability of people to use the Internet to do things they’ve been doing in the analog world for generations. Here, this patent is interfering with the age-old tradition of like-minded enthusiasts getting together to celebrate their hobbies,” said EFF Staff Attorney Vera Ranieri.  “Demanding a payout for infringement on an obviously bad patent like this one isn’t just unfair.  It acts as a chilling effect against those who would want to use the Internet to expand their community.”

“Patent bullies sue with weak patents and pick on defendants that can’t afford to prove their innocence,” said Nazer.  “We’re glad we can help our client fight back against Garfum’s abuse.”

Joe Gratz of the law firm Durie Tangri LLP and Frank Corrado of Barry, Corrado & Grassi, PC are co-counsel with EFF.

For the full motion to dismiss:

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Daniel Nazer
   Staff Attorney and the Mark Cuban Chair to Eliminate Stupid Patents
   Electronic Frontier Foundation

Vera Ranieri
   Staff Attorney
   Electronic Frontier Foundation