Microsoft Sued over Skype

In an article of May 1, 2013, C/Net reports on the patent lawsuit filed by CopyTele against Microsoft over some of the technology used in Skype. Specifically, CopyTele is suing over the infringement of two patents originally granted in 2005.microsoft-skype

The first patent that CopyTele claims ownership of concerns the transmission of information over the internet using public-key and private-key encryption, and the second patent refers to a security device, which the company defines as any device with a keyboard and microprocessor that has multiple inputs and outputs. CopyTele claims that any device running Skype qualifies as a security device under its patent definition.

CopyTele seems to be universally recognized as a patent troll. As such, they purchase early or vague computer-related patents and then sue any company involved in information technology. Patent trolls have previously been very successful in essentially blackmailing companies with lawsuits, due to the extraordinary expenses associated with defending oneself against such lawsuits.

Forbes’ coverage of the lawsuit identifies the plaintiff outright as a “patent troll.” The CEO of CopyTele, Robert Berman, frankly admitted to Forbes reporter Erika Morphy that his company was all about “patent monetization”—making money off the patent lawsuits, not the patented inventions themselves. His explanation to her was that, “It can be difficult for small inventors to work the system especially when their patents are used by big name companies. . . . ‘We provide a service to these inventors. They don’t have sophistication and expertise to monetize their inventions and we will help them do that.’”

There has been some speculation that, because the patents themselves are so vaguely worded, and the technology so widely used, that these latest lawsuits may not be as profitable as previous efforts.

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