Technology is a vital part of real state business, where faster and more convenient business service including attractive maps that allow potential home-buyers to find properties and even the provision of wifi can mean the difference of long and arduous search and helping someone quickly locate their dream homes. However, in providing these services, real estate professionals can become top target for those who abuse loopholes in patent system to file frivolous litigations. Abusive patents litigation remains serious threat for real state professional and other main street business of all sizes across the country.
Patent Litigation lawsuits filed by DDT
Patent litigation lawsuits were filed by DDT (Data Distribution Technologies), a patent troll and subsidiary of general Patent Corporation. DDT does not invent or produce anything using patents but instead profits from acquiring patents right and enforcing them against third parties, often demanding payments from their targets under the threat of a long and costly legal battle. In this case the patent at the issue involved the use of computers to send emails, to consumers about information in a database when data point of interest to them changed.
As many real estate businesses are small and medium sized enterprises, patent troll knows that they often lack the resources to mount a defense, even if they had a valid case that they have not infringed upon a patent. One study found that for small and medium sized company to defend against a patent troll case in court , it would spend an an average of 1.75$ million.
Because of the importance of this issue in our livelihoods, NAR decided to step in and defend against this abusive allegation. After reviewing the patent at the issue, we determined it did not warrant patent protection and filed a petition for Inter Partes Review (IPR), with the USPTO, concurrently filing suit against DDT in federal district court seeking a declaration that the patent was invalid because it did not cover patentable subject matter. This two pronged approach showed DDT, that we were prepared to fight and would not give way to their demand, and they quickly settled.
Our story ended successfully, but not all business that faces such litigation have the time and resources to assess and counter the meritless claim brought against them. For us and for many companies in our position who wish to fight back, the IPR process is an incredibly important resource that allows the USPTO to fairly reevaluate patents of questionable validity that likely should not have been granted in the first place. IPR serves as a meaningful tool for USPTO to holistically improve patent quality and address existing poor-quality patents that often are leveraged by trolls.
Ultimately, pressure from IPR initiated the patent to troll back away from the suits against our members rather than defend itself from challenges to its patents. The process offers a clear path for association to defend their members against patent trolls. Now that some in patent space are seeking to weaken IPR, it is important that congress and patent policymakers understand how important is this process to us , as well as countless other small business across the country who may fall victim to their extortive tactics of patent trolls, we caution legislators against any weaking or revision of the IPR process.