For companies that frequently get hit with infringement suits, fighting patent trolls is kind of like playing whack-a-mole: Beat one, and another quickly pops up to replace it. At least that’s the image that came to mind when we learned about a company called eDekka LLC, which sued 87 major retailers on Wednesday in East Texas federal court.
Since last November, eDekka has sued a whopping 150 companies with online retail businesses for allegedly infringing a single, 22-year-old patent. That’s fewer than the hundreds of companies previously sued by GeoTag Inc., another prolific patent plaintiff whose case against Google Inc. finally ran aground this week. But eDekka has only been around for six months. And like GeoTag’s assault, eDekka’s wide-ranging campaign is netting the company settlements with major defendants keen to avoid the hassle of litigation.
At least 17 of the eDekka defendants have reached confidential settlements so far, including Target Corporation, Samsung Electronics Co. and Sears Inc. Others are fighting back, at least for the time being: Apple Inc., Ralph Lauren Corporation and Toys “R” Us Inc. have each filed counterclaims against eDekka over the past few weeks. (Those cases are consolidated before U.S. District Judge Rodney Gilstrap in Marshall.)
The companies targeted in eDekka’s latest salvo of complaints include Etsy Inc., Disney Interactive, Buy.com and Scholastic Inc., to name a more or less random sample. The cases were all filed by Craig Tadlock of the Tadlock Law Firm in Plano, a former Baker Botts associate who recently served a stint at the Albritton Law Firm immersed in East Texas patent litigation. Tadlock didn’t immediately return a call seeking comment.
According to records kept by the U.S. Patent Office and the Texas secretary of state, eDekka was formed in September 2013, and its only patent is the one at issue in the Texas cases (patent number 6,266,674). The company claims that the patent covers online “shopping cart” functionality, though its inventor and previous owner, Donald Hejna, first filed for the patent in 1992, long before online shopping carts appeared on the scene.
We tried to reach lawyers for the defendants opposing eDekka’s claims but didn’t get any response. Apple is represented by Clay James of Hogan Lovells. Ralph Lauren and Toys “R” Us have tapped Holly Saporito of Alston & Bird.