NPE Acacia Rolls Up Big Settlements, Polaroid Patents
The American Lawyer
Acacia Research Corporation has been something of a bellwether for the state of patent litigation by non-practicing entities, a.k.a. patent trolls. Acacia was founded in 1993, one year before a patent lawyer at Intel Corporation supposedly coined the term "patent troll." It became one of the most litigious non-practicing entities ever, filing more than 300 patent infringement lawsuits over the next two decades, according to Bloomberg Businessweek. Its annual revenue doubled from $35 million in 2006 to $69 million in 2010during the period when NPE litigation boomed and "patent troll" entered the common parlance.
So, judging by Acacia's recent successes, it's safe to say NPE litigation is hotter than ever, despite recent efforts by Congress to crack down. Acacia's patent infringement complaints have netted several settlements in recent days. Companies striking licensing deals include Elite Semiconductor Memory Technology Inc., which is represented by K&L Gates, and Networkfleet Inc., a maker of GPS technology represented by Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton. The confidential settlements come on the heels on an announcement that Acacia posted an impressive $99 million in revenue in the first quarter of 2012a sixty percent increase over the same quarter last year.
The settlement with Elite Semiconductor emerged out of a multi-party patent infringement complaint in U.S. District Court in Marshall, Tx. The Houston firm Collins Edmonds & Pogorzelski brought suit on behalf of an Acacia subsidiary called DRAM Technologies LLC in February 2010, alleging that more than a dozen companies infringed its patents relating to computer memory. Elite Semiconductor had been one of the last hold-outs in the case. Integrated Silicon Solutions Inc. (represented by Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati) folded early on. And SK Hynix Semiconductor Inc. (represented by Fish & Richardson) reached a deal on April 2. The recent settlements may have have been spurred in part by a September 2011 opinion in which now-retired judge T. John Ward refused to dismiss the case on jurisdictional grounds. Elite Semiconductor's lawyers at K&L Gates had argued that the company doesn't do enough business in Texas for a court in the state to hear the case.
The settlement with Networkfleet, meanwhile, brings an end to a multi-party patent dispute over GPS technology in U.S. District Court in Atlanta. For that case, Acacia turned to Thomas Kayden Horstemeyer & Risley. The firm sued on behalf of an Acacia subsidiary called Telematics Corporation in November 2010, alleging that ten companies infringed patents relating to vehicle tracking technology. Kilpatrick Townsend represented three of the defendants, including Onstar LLC, Procon Inc., and Networkfleet. Networkfleet was the final defendant to settle the case; another company, Fleetilla, laid down its arms in May 2011 after judge Steve Jones rejected its bid to move Telematic's claims against it to U.S. District Court in Detroit, where the company is based. Acacia had tried to get Kilpatrick bounced from the case, unsuccessfully arguing that it had a conflict of interest because one its predecessor firms, Townsend & Townsend, prosecuted its patents between 1992 and 2006.
More Acacia settlements may be on the way. Acacia also announced on Tuesday that it had snatched up former Polaroid Corporation patents relating to digital imaging. The NPE now boasts patent portfolios relating to more than 200 different technologies.
An Acacia spokesperson did not return a call seeking comment. The company's lawyer in the Texas litigation, Michael Collins of Collins Edmonds & Pogorzelski, declined to comment. We didn't immediately hear back from K & L Gates partner Roderick Williams, who represented Elite Semiconductor.
This article originally appeared in The AmLaw Litigation Daily.