Friday, July 14, 2017

A patent lawyer switches teams; Crain's Chicago Business, July 8, 2017

Claire Bushey, Crain's Chicago Business; A patent lawyer switches teams

"Unlike a ​ traditional law firm, Blackbird is structured as a limited liability company, not a partnership, and it has no clients. Instead, it acquires patents from inventors or small businesses. Blackbird then sues companies for patent infringement on its own behalf, and it shares an unspecified percentage of any settlement or judgment with the original patent owner.

Blackbird filed 107 lawsuits between September 2014 and May, including against Amazon, Fitbit, Netflix and kCura, a Chicago company that makes software used by law firms. It has settled with Amazon. The other three cases are ongoing.

Three months ago it sued San Francisco-based Cloudflare, and in May the website infrastructure company blasted Blackbird as "a dangerous new breed of patent troll" and launched a scorched-earth campaign against the 11-person business. Cloudflare, valued at $3.2 billion and with a seven-employee Champaign office, offered to the public a total of $50,000 for evidence that would invalidate any of 35 patents Blackbird holds. It also lodged ethics complaints with legal disciplinary bodies in Illinois and Massachusetts, and it was successful in prompting Illinois Rep. Keith Wheeler (R-Oswego) to introduce a bill that would outlaw Blackbird's business model...

A lawyer at Intel coined the epithet "patent troll" in 2001 to refer to Anthony Brown, a one-time Jenner & Block partner turned serial patent lawsuit filer, and his Chicago lawyer, the late Ray Niro. A troll asserts a patent of dubious quality, hoping the company will settle the infringement lawsuit quickly for maybe $50,000 to avoid spending millions on litigation. Detractors often slap the label on patent holders who do not manufacture a product, so-called nonpracticing entities."

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