Companies Sued for Spam Filter Patent Infringement


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.

Written by Sue Walsh


  1. Owen Vallun · June 25, 2012

    This is definitely a clear example of somebody squatting on a patent and doing nothing with it. The honest truth is that if InNova was accomplishing anything with these common-sense patents, we would know their name for something else besides this kind of activity. I don’t think software patents ought to be abolished, but the record of a company or patent holder should be considered in matters like this.

  2. Neil · June 26, 2012

    It’s not only the patent legislation that is broken – the copyright legislation is as well

  3. Dixie Canton · June 27, 2012

    The Patent Law is not bad or useless per se, it is how if is used or abused by companies such as InNova. InNova what? There it not even a top-of-the-mind product that I can think of that they’ve created. What’s their business model? Innovate or invent something, have it patented and make money out from companies who “violated” their patent.

    However, I would propose for the Patent Law to be amended to include provisions that companies holding patents should prove that there is an ongoing development of products or services using that specific patent or have their patent revoked. In this way, patent squatters will not abound.

  4. Clarice White · July 28, 2012

    It is interesting to watch how those large companies will settle with this and how long it will take for them to come to a resolution.
    They should be proactive. Instead of just fighting it off in court OR settling it amicably and paying off the “aggrieved” party, they should invest in paying off lobbyists who can study, scrutinize and propose amendments to the Patent Law. In this way, the perceived loopholes of the law will be taken care of and the criticisms against it would gain some real credence and moves towards having it amended would take some traction. Or maybe they’re already doing it?

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