InNova, which is known as a “patent troll” and accused of being a shell company that makes its profit by suing every company it can, has filed suit against Facebook, Microsoft, Comcast, Ebay and several other companies claiming they violated a patent relating to spam filter technology.
The suit was filed in East Texas, a jurisdiction known for its extreme favor toward patent holders. InNova has previously sued Apple, AOL, HP, Google and Yahoo for various patent violations and won fat settlements from most. AOL and Google have refused to settle and are still fighting in court. They sued 36 companies in 2010 for patent violations claiming email would cease to function if it weren’t for their patented technology.
The patent in question this time relates to “System for Adding to Electronic Mail Messages Information Obtained from Sources External to the Electronic Mail Transport Process”, and was issued four years before Facebook even existed. Here’s what the lawsuit accuses them of:
“using … electronic-message filtering products and/or services that embody the inventions claimed in the ’761 patent, including but not limited to Facebook Email and all reasonably similar products.”
It’s not clear exactly what Microsoft and the other companies in the suit are accused of but one can assume that it’s not much different than the Facebook accusations. What is clear is that the entire patent system is badly broken. How much time and money are wasted on these kinds of lawsuits? Some are calling for software patents to be abolished all together.