Unified Patents has harpooned one of its biggest whales.
SportBrain Holdings, a nonpracticing entity that had sued some 140 different companies over wearable fitness technology, dropped its appeal last week of a Patent Trial and Appeal Board decision that invalidated all 16 claims of its sole asserted patent.
Unified Patents is a member-supported organization designed to deter NPE litigation. It obtained the PTAB decision last spring against what it describes as one of the most prolific patent filers of the last few years.
The patents originated with SportBrain Inc., a company that marketed fitness trackers in the early 2000s before going out of business. The company assigned its patents to SportBrain Holdings, which has sued wearables companies like Fitbit and Jawbone, medical device makers such as Medtronic, and insurance companies that gather health-related data such as Aetna and Blue Cross and Blue Shield.
SportBrain CEO Harry Heslop reportedly told Law360 that SportBrain was first to market and was then squeezed out by goliath companies. “As the ‘David’ in this story, we will slingshot our IP at all the offenders and unleash the full extent of the law until justice is served,” Heslop had said.
Unified chief IP counsel Jonathan Stroud said the goal of its PTAB challenge was protecting the industry from “harassing litigation”—the kind “where somebody feels they can sue 142 companies and get away with it.”
SportBrain did get away with it by some measures. The company has voluntarily dismissed all of its lawsuits over the years, many of them within months of filing. Some of those dismissals presumably included settlement payments, even if of modest value.
Stroud said an oddity of the litigation was that—even after the PTAB instituted trial proceedings, a move that often leads to the cancellation of patent claims—SportBrain continued filing dozens more suits. Most were filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois.
The PTAB ultimately concluded that the patent was obvious in light of prior fitness tracking inventions.
Stroud argued the case before the PTAB. Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr partner David Cavanaugh was in charge of depositions. Stroud credited associate Michael Van Handel, now with DLA, with playing a key role in framing the petition.
SportBrain lead counsel Isaac Rabicoff of Rabicoff Law could not immediately be reached for comment. Patent agent Brian Lynch of Niro-McAndrews and Rene Vazquez of Sinergia Technology Law Group assisted him before the PTAB.