FARK.com Founder Drew Curtis on Wednesday disclosed that he’s managed to escape the threats of a patent holding firm called “Gooseberry Natural Resources” — without having to pay a cent.
“Their patent had nothing to do with Fark,” wrote Curtis in a Wednesday blog post on the subject. “The patent troll realized we were going to fight them instead of settle, so they asked for our best offer. I said how about you get nothing and drop the lawsuit? They accepted.”
Curtis apparently not only managed to fend off the company, he (or his lawyers at Roestzel & Andress) managed to get Gooseberry to drop a non-disclosure agreement from the settlement.
The patent, U.S. Patent No. 6,370,535, titled System and Method For Structured News Release Generation and Distribution, is being used by Gooseberry to sue Reddit owners Advance Magazine Publishers, Belo, The Atlanta Journal Consitution, DIGG, TechCrunch, Newsvine, Yahoo and others.
Curtis said that he hopes other, more deep-pocketed entities go after Gooseberry, who he calls a patent troll, an increasingly well-known phrase as more and more companies and small-business owners find themselves the target of one of these suits.
He says Yahoo and Conde Nast (owned by Advance) have settled, but TechCrunch parent AOL is holding out.
From Curtis’ post:
“It was a nightmare. Imagine someone breaking into your home, then being forced to sit on the couch while their lawyers file motions over how much stuff they can take. My wife Heather said my first draft of this post sounded too angry, probably due to the fact that every third word was an f-bomb (among other things I paraphrased our best one-time settlement offer as “how about jack sh*t and go f*ck yourself”, which may be a more accurate depiction of how I really felt at the time). I won’t lie though, I was angry and I am still. Too much money was wasted on this, too many sleepless nights, too many hours away from running Fark, and all this because someone else decided that suing companies for bearing a vague resemblance to their patent (patents they don’t even appear to use themselves) is a good business model. We’re short a full-time employee thanks to these douchebags.
Patents are a complex area of the law, and are increasingly the subject of dispute in the technology space.
As a sign of how Alice-in-Wonderland the system is, the man who coined the term, former Intel lawyer Peter Detkin, now works at Intellectual Ventures, the firm that NPR recently profiled as a troll firm.
There are a few ideas in the current patent reform effort underway in Congress right now to fix the situation, but it’s not clear how effective these reforms are going to be in providing the targets of such suits quick relief.
The legislative effort in both chambers has been condemned by the National Small Business Association as bad for small business.
Correction: In the original version, this post incorrectly referred to Conde Nast as the parent company of Advance. We regret the error.