Texas judge throws out patent claims

Wooden gavel Image copyright Thinkstock

A judge in East Texas has wiped out 168 patent cases relating to a single patent and filed by the same company.

The patent, belonging to a firm called eDekka, related to "methods of storing information" which included the use of labels - but the judge said this could apply to routine activities.

The US patent system allows companies to acquire the rights to inventions and demand money for their use, without making products of their own.

Critics call it "patent trolling".

However, in the case of eDekka against online retailer judge Rodney Gilstrap ruled that "the claimed idea represents routine tasks that could be performed by a human" and was therefore not worth protection by patent law.

The District of East Texas has traditionally been favourable towards patent claimants, in part because of its rules on swift litigation processes, which can put pressure on defendants to settle disputes quickly, according to the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF).

However, Judge Gilstrap's ruling on the 3balls case last month also included all other defendants facing similar legal action from the firm regarding the same patent.

"US judges, even in the notoriously troll-friendly Eastern District of Texas, increasingly invalidate patents for claiming monopolies on abstract ideas," patent expert Florian Muller told the BBC.

EDekka, which has no online presence, is one of the most prolific filers of patent lawsuits.

In 2014, it filed more than 100 allegations of patent misuse.

The new ruling means its patent, number 6,266,674 is, in effect, wiped out.

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