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Ask Slashdot: What To Do About Patent Trolls Seeking Wi-fi License Fees?

samzenpus posted about a year and a half ago | from the send-us-your-money dept.

The Almighty Buck 347

An anonymous reader writes "My company has been contacted by certified letter by Delaware law firm. They are seeking license fees for a Wi-fi patent. I believe this is a patent troll (not that this matters in relation to dealing with this issue). This is a newly formed law firm less than 4 months old. This patent is U.S. Patent No. 5,506,866. This patent covers equipment and method related to the transmission of information involving the multiplexing information into a stream of signal points (and demultiplexing the same), and related technology. They have 'offered' to license this patent with no amounts specified. Unfortunately we are a small free software company. The company is setup as a sole proprietorship. I'm not asking for legal advise from the Slashdot community. The question is where might one look for 'legal counsel' with the expertise to answer these types of legal questions as it relates to this inquiry. I would prefer to avoid legal fees, court cases, or license fees running the company into the ground. The company is registered in New Jersey."

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347 comments

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Links? (-1, Troll)

MikeBabcock (65886) | about a year and a half ago | (#42778965)

A link to the patent text or the company involved would at least would be appreciated. I can't be bothered to go find it myself.

Re:Links? (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42779033)

http://www.google.com/patents/US5506866

Lazy bones.

Re:Links? (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42779111)

Could someone please make this a hyperlink. I'm too lazy to copy and paste it into my url.

Re:Links? (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42779239)

Can someone please phone me and read this to me, I am too lazy to read.
I'm sorry i can't be bothered providing my phone number.

Re:Links? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42779277)

Install a browser add-on that automatically makes links from text URLs. Any browser worth shit will have one.

Re:Links? (1)

sjames (1099) | about a year and a half ago | (#42779451)

But clicking is so HARRRRRRRrrdddddd!

Re:Links? (5, Informative)

pacapaca (1955354) | about a year and a half ago | (#42779523)

Firefox and Chrome both support highlighting the url text and opening in a new tab without addons.

Re:Links? (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42779355)

Link. [google.com]

Re:Links? (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42779515)

Would someone please write this reply for me?

Re:Links? (4, Funny)

foobsr (693224) | about a year and a half ago | (#42779079)

U.S. Patent No. 5,506,866

I doubt that you are competent enough to evaluate the patent givien that you are not able/willing to shoulder the burdon of three/four extra clicks to arrive at the relevant documentation.

CC.

Re:Links? (0, Offtopic)

MikeBabcock (65886) | about a year and a half ago | (#42779121)

While the 3 click rule may be bunk cf. http://sixrevisions.com/usabilityaccessibility/10-usability-tips-based-on-research-studies/ [sixrevisions.com] making users leave your site to go search for their own info is not posting a useful story.

If you're going to post a story, post it *with* the relevant links, for everyone, not just for me.

not the right place (0, Offtopic)

cohomology (111648) | about a year and a half ago | (#42778969)

I don't think you should be discussing a legal threat in a public forum.

Re:not the right place (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42779045)

a public debunking with a standard legal response is exactly what's needed. saves everyone else he time and effort.

Re:not the right place (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42779125)

If this is a troll then they have sent the letter out to many businesses. The above probably won't sufficiently identify the specific company. I could take some guesses although there are quite a few free software oriented companies which are in that vicinity.

Re:not the right place (3, Interesting)

Qzukk (229616) | about a year and a half ago | (#42779235)

I don't think you should be discussing a legal threat in a public forum.

Why, at least as long as he doesn't say "i'm guilty as hell, what can I do to get away with it?"

Personally, I'm interested in knowing if his company actually has anything to do with WiFi, though the answer to that might be dangerously close to "I'm guilty as hell, what can I do to get away with it?" Just reading the submission makes it sound like he got hit by one of those little shits that was going around sending threatening letters to companies about sharing scanned documents [slashdot.org] , whether they did or not.

real world ain't FOSS (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42778975)

I strongly believe in "you get what you paid for."
Having said that, some law firms offer free consultation on initial visit. Look them up in New Jersey.

Offer them a percentage of profit? (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42778997)

You're a free software company yes? If so then you can offer to give them a percentage of profit from each software sale you make (being zero). You'll probably have to swing that idea by a lawyer, but I say screw them.

Re:Offer them a percentage of profit? (4, Insightful)

Impy the Impiuos Imp (442658) | about a year and a half ago | (#42779141)

This assumes the troll is being honest.

They could be building a case for attacking deep pockets later by assembling a history of knocking off a bunch of little guys first.

See an IP laywer. (3, Informative)

sanchom (1681398) | about a year and a half ago | (#42779003)

Wwhere might one look for 'legal counsel' with the expertise to answer these types of legal questions as it relates to this inquiry. I would prefer to avoid legal fees, court cases, or license fees running the company into the ground.

You should see an IP laywer. While this won't avoid you all legal fees, you'll be able to get some basic answers for a small cost, and it will let you know if your other constraints (avoiding court or license fees) are reasonable.

Re:See an IP laywer. (4, Insightful)

Daniel_Staal (609844) | about a year and a half ago | (#42779475)

If the OP truly believes that this is a patent troll attacking them, the best thing may be to just ignore them. It's like spam: They are seeing who bites, and then they can reel you in for a settlement. If they send a couple of letters and don't get any response (especially from a small company that may have gone out of business without notifying anyone), they'll just move on to their next possible target.

Ars Technica had an article on this recently, though I can't find it quickly at the moment. It most cases, the best response was to just ignore the first couple of letters.

Curious (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42779005)

What are the repercussions or ramifications of you writing back,

"Fuck you, we're not going to play this game."

Serious question.

Re:Curious (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42779131)

Being organized as a sole proprietorship means his personal assets are at risk. These types of legal debts are not disposable by bankruptcy, so they could follow him around the rest of his life.

Re:Curious (4, Insightful)

postbigbang (761081) | about a year and a half ago | (#42779317)

Which is sadly the reason to incorporate, or do an LLC/LLP, etc., and join the madness of shielding yourselve personal assets from the trolls.

Sad to have to recommend it, but litigation, whether you're right or wrong, is expensive. Welcome to the game. You start out by losing.

Re:Curious (2)

mkoenecke (249261) | about a year and a half ago | (#42779319)

Umm... exactly how are these types of legal debts not disposable by bankruptcy? IAAL, and as far as I know non-dischargeable debts are things like taxes, child support obligations, student loan debts, and secured debts (to the extent of the security).

Re:Curious (1)

spire3661 (1038968) | about a year and a half ago | (#42779345)

Well then hes a dumbass for not going full Corp. You cant play with the big dogs if they know they can take your personal property.

Re:Curious (1)

Huff (314296) | about a year and a half ago | (#42779347)

Refer them to the reply given in the case of Arkell v. Pressdram.
Worked for Private Eye

Prior art (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42779017)

They just showed a patent that describes any number of things. Ethernet for example. It also describes how TDM/FDM both tech from ancient history as telecom goes. It's high time we had a triple damages system in our courts. Would make a troll think twice.

Re:Prior art (1)

Sarius64 (880298) | about a year and a half ago | (#42779491)

Seriously. I could apply that patent to the last 40 years of naval communications systems; most of which are public domain.

Contact an atty. (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42779025)

You should find yourself an attorney.

1) this patent was filed in 1993, making it a 17 years from issue date patent. Based upon it's issue date of April 9, 1996, it expires (dies) on April 9, 2013. So in a very very short time, the patent will be useless anyway.

2) What is claimed is based upon side channel data in a simultaneous analog/digital signal. It is very unlikely to actually apply to WiFi, but if they can scare you into paying them, then they win. With a competent atty., it is very likely you can make them look elsewhere for victims they can frighten into settlements.

Re:Contact an atty. (4, Informative)

arbiter1 (1204146) | about a year and a half ago | (#42779227)

Might be something to talk to the EFF on? They might be able to help you with answers to some of your question's as they have lawyers fight these kinds of things.

Re:Contact an atty. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42779231)

> this patent was filed in 1993, making it a 17 years from issue date patent. Based upon it's issue date of April 9, 1996, it expires (dies) on April 9, 2013.

if that is true then how come the mp3 patent hasn't expired? It was filed in 1992...

Re:Contact an atty. (3, Informative)

PT_1 (2425848) | about a year and a half ago | (#42779337)

> this patent was filed in 1993, making it a 17 years from issue date patent. Based upon it's issue date of April 9, 1996, it expires (dies) on April 9, 2013.

if that is true then how come the mp3 patent hasn't expired? It was filed in 1992...

It's because there is no 'mp3 patent'. There are several patents applicable to the format; some have already expired, and some have yet to do so.

From Wikipedia: [wikipedia.org]

The various MP3-related patents expire on dates ranging from 2007 to 2017 in the U.S.[52] The initial near-complete MPEG-1 standard (parts 1, 2 and 3) was publicly available on 6 December 1991 as ISO CD 11172.[53][54] In the United States, patents cannot claim inventions that were already publicly disclosed more than a year prior to the filing date, but for patents filed prior to 8 June 1995, submarine patents made it possible to extend the effective lifetime of a patent through application extensions. Patents filed for anything disclosed in ISO CD 11172 a year or more after its publication are questionable; if only the known MP3 patents filed by December 1992 are considered, then MP3 decoding may be patent-free in the US by September 2015 when U.S. Patent 5,812,672 expires which had a PCT filing in Oct 1992.[55][56][57]

MP3 patent (2)

tepples (727027) | about a year and a half ago | (#42779349)

U.S. patents subsisting as of the effective date of the Uruguay Round Agreements Act (June 8, 1995), or whose applications were still pending on that date, expire 17 years after issue or 20 years after filing, whichever is longer. U.S. patents applied for after that date expire 20 years after filing, plus term extensions for undue examination delay or regulatory approval delay. The last of the MP3 patents, U.S. Patent 6009399, was filed in 1997 and is believed to expire in 2017 according to the list in this article [osnews.com] .

Re:Contact an atty. (1)

chriscappuccio (80696) | about a year and a half ago | (#42779397)

mp3 is based on a series of patents, one of which doesn't expire until 2017

in any event, the troll can sue for supposed infringement which occurred prior to the expiration, even after it expires

Re:Contact an atty. (4, Informative)

Dachannien (617929) | about a year and a half ago | (#42779297)

It actually expires 15 November 2013, 20 years from the filing date, because patents in force or pending as of the 1995 change in patent term get whichever term would be longer.

Keep in mind that the expiration of a patent doesn't immediately mean that you're in the clear. You can still be sued for infringement that occurred during the patent term, and they can file the suit anytime until the statute of limitations runs out (I think that's 3 years, but ask a lawyer).

Re:Contact an atty. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42779301)

I recall some website responding with "We are represented by an attorney and any further contact should be made through them. You may contact them at attorney@.com". This supposedly fltered out the people only claiming to be an attorney and made the claimant disclose their true contact information if they were legit. Those emails were then forwarded to the actual attorney representing the company who would respond as appropriate. The site owners did not have to be bothered corresponding.

Not applicable here, but it was an interesting ploy.

Start at the FSF? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42779043)

FSF

Lawyer Up (0)

ReadAholic (245150) | about a year and a half ago | (#42779055)

Get an aggressive lawyer who cuts their balls off, who will attack any idiot troll. But the lawyer actually needs to know IP litigation and patent stuff. Find someone you would hate to have for a dinner party. Be prepared to fight. Be aggressive. Make them back down, and publicize the hell out your fight / victory. Dont look like the weak kid.

Re:Lawyer Up (1)

BoRegardless (721219) | about a year and a half ago | (#42779261)

But the only one who will win will be your lawyer who makes his condo payments from your fees if you follow ReadAholic's plan.

You go to a patent litigator after studying the claim, the length the patent has to run before expiring and tell the attorney you will pay him for one hours work to send a forceful "You don't deserve anything." letter and the reasons why (suggested by other readers here on Slashdot).

That will be very worthwhile.

Re:Lawyer Up (1)

chriscappuccio (80696) | about a year and a half ago | (#42779411)

and spend several tens of thousands of dollars doing it. perfect for a sole proprietorship, small business!!! great idea!!!!!!

Get the hell out of that country. (5, Insightful)

Kwpolska (2026252) | about a year and a half ago | (#42779059)

Would Canada work for those purposes? I guess so.

Re:Get the hell out of that country. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42779259)

very practical suggestion.

captcha: immature

Re:Get the hell out of that country. (4, Informative)

green1 (322787) | about a year and a half ago | (#42779469)

Canada bows quickly to US patent pressure, so no, Canada wouldn't work.

Contact EFF (5, Insightful)

folderol (1965326) | about a year and a half ago | (#42779065)

See title. Also don't reply until you absolutely HAVE to. Paten runs out this year!

Re:Contact EFF (2)

Stormthirst (66538) | about a year and a half ago | (#42779127)

If the patent runs out this year, sounds like stalling tactics are exactly the right way to go. Perhaps a pro-bono letter from a lawyer saying "we're examining the validity of your claim and we'll get back to you on that".

Re:Contact EFF (2)

phantomfive (622387) | about a year and a half ago | (#42779213)

Perhaps a pro-bono letter from a lawyer saying "we're examining the validity of your claim and we'll get back to you on that".

Come on, if you're not in poverty, pay the lawyer. It's not going to be too expensive to get a letter. Lawyers need to eat too, if you appreciate their services, pay them for it.

Re:Contact EFF (1)

Stormthirst (66538) | about a year and a half ago | (#42779293)

Among many reasons, this is one of the reasons why I keep in touch with my friends from high school. One in particular is a lawyer, and I've asked him all kinds of questions. In a simple case like this, he'll do it pro-bono because he just can't see a merit in their case. On the other hand, I have hired him to do several pieces of work which needed a bit more than just a letter. Paid him well for it too

Re:Contact EFF (2)

MightyMartian (840721) | about a year and a half ago | (#42779351)

What's a meeting and a letter going to cost? Pay a lawyer a couple of hundred bucks. If this is just some sort of scam, a letter from an attorney will more than likely send the guy running. If it's legit, then you're definitely going to want legal counsel.

Re:Contact EFF (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42779535)

Who in their right mind appreciates lawyers?

Re:Contact EFF (5, Interesting)

DRJlaw (946416) | about a year and a half ago | (#42779391)

If the patent runs out this year, sounds like stalling tactics are exactly the right way to go. Perhaps a pro-bono letter from a lawyer saying "we're examining the validity of your claim and we'll get back to you on that".

Except for the minor problem that you can sue for patent infringement even after the patent expires, since the 'statute of limitation' for infringement damages goes back 6 years.

You'd be amazed at the sort of advice that you can obtain from lawyers who have actually studied the law, as opposed to joe-yank-an-answer-out-of-his-hindquarters.

Re:Contact EFF (1)

dugjohnson (920519) | about a year and a half ago | (#42779147)

Backing up folderol on this. Keep your mouth shut until you talk to YOUR lawyer.

Re:Contact EFF (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42779305)

patent expiration does not protect from liability on infringment prior to expiration. So if there is infringment now, he is still on he hook regardless of when the patent will expire.

Re:Contact EFF (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42779495)

Yes, I'd agree. Don't reply unless you absolutely have to. If you have to reply, ask them to specify exactly what they are claiming license fee for.

Re:Contact EFF (4, Informative)

Stephan Schulz (948) | about a year and a half ago | (#42779501)

EFF might help. But this is more in line with the Software Freedom Law Center [softwarefreedom.org] . Defending FOSS developers against unjustified patent claims is part of their mission.

Nuke Them from Orbit (4, Funny)

Rob Riggs (6418) | about a year and a half ago | (#42779115)

It's the only way to be sure.

Sometimes I wonder... (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42779129)

Sometimes I wonder if patent trolls are created by companies producing related software or products to try and kill off all competition.

Everyone and their grandma knows the one of the worst trolls, Intellectual Ventures, was started by "ex" Microsoft EmployeeS, note the S. No surprise there.
Wouldn't be surprised if they were the guys behind most of Microsofts direct attacks on everyone else even remotely a threat to Microsoft.

I would like to see if any of those patent trolls have any relation to any large companies, it would be quite interesting.

tebrikler (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42779139)

çok güzel ve faydal bir site olmu tebrikler
www.yerliotomobilistiyoruz.com

Get a turnip and a rock (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42779151)

Show those people a turnip and a rock.

Then tell them that while they are trying to get a license fee out of you, they should try getting blood out of the turnip and rock.

That may dissuade them from proceeding with a suit - what's the point in going after you if you have no money.

Then get the lawyers.

Now, why those people aren't going after Linsys, Netgear, etc. ... and the cell phone companies has me a little confused because they have the deep pockets - and a much better chance of a payoff.

Re:Get a turnip and a rock (2)

b1scuit (795301) | about a year and a half ago | (#42779431)

>

Now, why those people aren't going after Linsys, Netgear, etc. ... and the cell phone companies has me a little confused because they have the deep pockets - and a much better chance of a payoff.

It's actually a much better chance of getting a "lol, go away tiny troll" letter from those companies with huge legal departments.

Advice (0)

theArtificial (613980) | about a year and a half ago | (#42779161)

>legal advise
>advise

Tell them you're not based in the US... (3, Funny)

Gordonjcp (186804) | about a year and a half ago | (#42779165)

... and accordingly, under $other_country law, you plan to enact a plea of Incenderunt Ad Officium. Then ask them exactly *when* they'd like the five gallons of petrol delivered to their letterbox.

Patent Examiner ran a related story Oct. 2011 (1)

rkaa (162066) | about a year and a half ago | (#42779175)

similar or same thing?. Maybe some ideas about approching this can be found there:
http://patentexaminer.org/2011/09/innovatios-infringement-suit-rampage-expands-to-corporate-hotels/

Modem patent - not WiFi (3, Informative)

dentin (2175) | about a year and a half ago | (#42779179)

This patent is explicitly for PSTN modems, from the looks of it low rate V34 or V17, and is extremely unlikely to be held legitimate or even remotely applicable to WiFi if you go to court/war over it. Further, it expires very soon, so it may be best to not respond and wait for expiration. Simply looking at the diagrams included in the patent text may be sufficient to get the case thrown out, should it come to that. However, by that point, you will have wasted a ton of money.

Probably the best approach is to not respond, and do no further releases until its expiration in april so that if a suit arrives, you can say that you immediately stopped using the offending code. I don't know that I would even bother to hire an attorney given what I see in the patent, but that's up to you.

Re:Modem patent - not WiFi (1)

ColdWetDog (752185) | about a year and a half ago | (#42779377)

No, the best approach is to discuss the case with competent legal counsel. NOT listening to the static on Slashdot.

Unfortunately, legal issues crop up all of the time. It is truly a cost of doing business. Initial consultations are typically pretty reasonable and someone else has thoughtfully provided a nice list of IP attorneys. Your local or regional Bar Association can do the same, as can many general attorneys.

Re:Modem patent - not WiFi (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42779425)

Not responding to something like this is often considered an admission of guilt. Luckily most of the time a response like "we have consulted with professionals in the field and they do not believe we are infringing on the afformentioned pattent. Please send more detailed information on which of our technologies infringe and how..." or whatever. As long as you are communicating and never give any indication you have infringed you are cooperating. So stall, never give them any information they didn't explicitly request, and really think hard about weather the information you are providing could be misconstrued as an admission of guilt or wrongdoing on your part.

Take matters into your own hand (1)

asshole felcher (2655639) | about a year and a half ago | (#42779181)

Kill their lawyer(s).

Re:Take matters into your own hand (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42779251)

Kill their lawyer(s).

Nah, that'd be felony territory with no statute of limitation.
Merely slashing some tires and fire bombing their office would suffice.

Re:Take matters into your own hand (1)

bmo (77928) | about a year and a half ago | (#42779365)

The whole point of a court system is so that we don't have to resort to violence to settle issues such as this.

It seems like there are an increasing number of plaintiffs who want to push the adversarial process in an unreasonably vicious manner - persuing barratry instead of using the system correctly. These people should be aware that there is only so far victims of barratry can be pushed before they fight back in non-standard, and more affordable ways.

Unfortunately, barratry is rarely punished, if ever. If it was, we'd see far less of this, and a more sane court system.

--
BMO

Slashdot hates to admit this but... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42779211)

I am not a lawyer, so you should find someone who is.

Do you really need WIFI? (1)

pijokela (462279) | about a year and a half ago | (#42779221)

Others have noted that the patent should expire this year. You mentioned that you are a small software vendor - I understand from that that you have about 20 guys at work. Could you operate without WIFI?

Seriously. Turn the WIFI radios of from all laptops and have cables on all desks and in meeting rooms. It's really not that hard.

I have no idea if that would work legally, but technically it's doable. Then you could reply that you are not using any infringing technology.

IANAL (1)

Let's All Be Chinese (2654985) | about a year and a half ago | (#42779233)

Not sure what you're asking, but I'd consider answering along the lines of not being aware of how your business, software, is --or even possibly could be-- in any way or form infringing on their patents, how any and all hardware that may possibly be subject to the patent is store-bought and therefore assumed to be properly accounted for by the manufacturer, how it is up to them to establish how what you're doing is in fact infringing, and that you're happy to assist them further for a nicely outrageous hourly rate, paid in advance, because patent law is not your core business.

Otherwise, do we really have to start buying our stuff with patent litigation indemnity guarantees or something? This sort of thing just smells abusive. Isn't there an abusive litigation law somewhere?

Or maybe you could offer to license their complete current-and-future patent portfolio for an one-off payment of some small number, like two dollarcents. Be prepared to back up how that is a reasonable number given how, well, you figure something out.

Or perhaps you could counter-sue for frivolous lititgation and wasting your time for the time it's cost you so far which ought to be a small enough number still to fit in small claims court--the one nearest to you, of course. If you choose to talk first, I'd probably at least warn them that your time isn't free and that continuing to argue will incur consulting charges.

But of course you need to talk to some lawyer type, no going around that. But you can try and find one that doesn't immediately cost an arm and a leg, like a student-run free service or something set up by the eff or something.

Re:IANAL (1)

DarwinSurvivor (1752106) | about a year and a half ago | (#42779405)

You're right. It really isn't stated whether the patent threat is about some technology they are developing (wireless protocols perhaps?) or off-the-shelf hardware they purchased. In the later case, a lawyer could probably just send a letter to the effect of "all wireless technology in use at this facility was purchased from linksys/dlink/etc, please contact them directly regarding licensing inquiries."

If Ford were infringing on a Toyota hubcap patent, Toyota would sue Ford, not all the people that bought F-250s. In fact, if Ford did try that, they would run their name into the ground faster than a Pinto driven backwards off a cliff.

Re:IANAL (1)

DarwinSurvivor (1752106) | about a year and a half ago | (#42779417)

correction: If Toyota tried that, my bad.

Stop being stupid for one. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42779249)

What is it with the stupid questions on here? Yeah like you should ask a bunch of nerds important legal questions online where none of them are qualified to answer you and give nothing but uninformed armchair opinions. So first stop is to not ask people who dont really know anything, especially people like that online. Cause online everything believes they know everything.

Call your attorney and stop asking dumb questions.

All of a sudden that S Corp filing fee seems small (1)

Overzeetop (214511) | about a year and a half ago | (#42779257)

Probably too late for you, but my first thought was: Register a corporation, sell all of your business assets to that corporation for a dollar. It may be too late though; the courts tend to frown on this sort of thing, especially for small players. Plus, you may have been infringing as your sole proprietorship all these years and still be liable personally.

I hope you have $5,000-10,000 sitting around to find out if this actually applies to you and at least attempt to make them go away.

A question, though: was the letter sent using a traceable method? You'll want a lawyer anyway, but it would be nice to have plausible deniability that you every received this communication to begin with.

Re:All of a sudden that S Corp filing fee seems sm (1)

mkoenecke (249261) | about a year and a half ago | (#42779361)

Once you have notice of a potential claim, it's too late.

Throw it in the trash and go about your business. (1)

nrozema (317031) | about a year and a half ago | (#42779283)

Given the content of the patent, near-term expiration, and the fact that you were specifically targeted as a small business unlikely to have significant resources, the entire business model of this "law firm" revolves around extorting "license fees" from scared small businesses like yours. If you voluntarily agree to pay them, they win. If you tell them to buzz off, they move on to find the next sucker.

What _doesn't_ fit in to their business model is taking even one person to court. The cost of a single suit would negate the free money "licensing fees" from potentially hundreds of suckers who just went ahead and wrote a check out of fear.

"Buddy Network" (1)

toiletsalmon (309546) | about a year and a half ago | (#42779287)

I'm assuming that your company has an attorney? This is the point where they need to lean heavily on their social contacts to find someone who specializes in either:
a) Patents
b) Tech
c) Both (preferably)

Otherwise, I'd ask as many competent people that you know/trust to go through their rolodexes for "friends of friends". As a last resort, I guess you could visit some of the places where prominent opensource folk hang out. Hell, amazing things have happened on Reddit, so see if you can get some traction there as well.

Whatever you do, DON'T JUST IGNORE IT. It is my understanding that if you don't show up to defend yourself, you can get a default judgement against you even if the claims are complete bullshit.

Good luck!

Isn't is a shame (4, Insightful)

Overzeetop (214511) | about a year and a half ago | (#42779303)

Isn't it a shame that there isn't a significant, statutory penalty for filing or threatening to file a false claim?

Re:Isn't is a shame (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42779511)

it should be jail time, and a felony.

captcha: victims

Go to www.Groklaw.net (4, Informative)

kawabago (551139) | about a year and a half ago | (#42779309)

The Groklaw community will give you plenty of help. Just ask!

Ignore it (2)

bdemchak (1099961) | about a year and a half ago | (#42779323)

If it's a random contact (which it probably is ... and unjustifiable, at that), they won't try twice. If it's serious, you'll hear from them again.

Start with state bar (2)

taz346 (2715665) | about a year and a half ago | (#42779331)

Call your state bar association. Explain the situation as you have here, that you believe this law firm is possibly abusing the system in an effort to intimidate small businesses like yours into paying since that would likely cost less than hiring a law firm with expertise in patent law. Ask them to recommend some options, e.g., a non-profit legal center or a firm that wouldn't end up costing you much in return for sending a response to these guys basically just telling them to back off. You might also consider calling your state attorney general's office - they may someone tasked with helping small businesses in situations like this.

Why worry? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42779353)

Petty, wannabe muggers like these pick easy marks. Acknowledge receipt of their letters, tell them you dispute the claims and refuse to offer any further information. They're not going to initiate litigation against a small company that would fold due to legal costs before the case ever got to court.

By all means answer them (5, Interesting)

SplatMan_DK (1035528) | about a year and a half ago | (#42779359)

You should always answer a lawyer who sends you a letter. Even a troll. Just make sure your answer is either useless to them or can be used to stall the case.

For example you could send a letter explaining that you don't believe your company infringes on said patent amd ask for clarification on why they believe otherwise.

When you get an answer to that, your next letter should be a series of questions asking how they know stuff about your company. Ask them where they got their information from, and ask them to provide a full report on all data collected about you or the company. They may very well be legally obligated to respond to inquiries about collected data.

Finally, ask them for instructions on how they believe you can stop infringing the patent. Explain you have no desire to infringe on it, that you believe you are indeed not, but that you would be happe to evaluate any suggestions they might have regarding ways to ensure the alleged infringement.

Each time wait 7-9 days before responding.

If they get difficult ask for a personal meeting at your office and make sure to explain how busy you are when you apoligize for being unavailable until ... approx 9-17 days later.

By the time you are done with this the patent expiation date will be closer and they will have wasted a ton of time. Also should the case ever get to trial you can show that you have honestly tried to cooperate in any way possible (short on paying for the infringement you don't believe is taking place).

It is almost as much fun as fooling nigerian scammers.

Put them to work. It isn't really that hard. :-)

- Jesper

Re:By all means answer them (1)

SplatMan_DK (1035528) | about a year and a half ago | (#42779383)

Apologies for typos. Slashdots edit field sucks on a cell with mobile Chrome :-/ /J

Re:By all means answer them (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42779439)

This. Quite a good suggestion if the asker is bothering to read. Though really the asker should have asked the question on groklaw or gone to the EFF for advice.

Bob Zeidman's at it again? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42779369)

Just tell Bob Zeidman to fuck off. Sooner or later he'll get the message.

Scam! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42779389)

Sounds like a scam to me.

Rule #1... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42779403)

Rule #1 of Lawsuit club is: We don't sign for certified letters...

Since you already signed for it, you've given up on plausible deniability.

For anyone else out there ever faced with this ask yourself this question: have you ever heard of any good EVER coming to anyone anyone via certified mail?

It's only ever bad news. If you don't sign for certified/registered mail, they can't prove they served you. Just upping the ante my making them send a sheriff or other legal official to serve notice properly in person will generally make you not worth the wide net patent trolls cast.

This is NOT legal advice, this is just reasonable.

Posting anon, cuz ... maybe I've just let a certified letter go unsigned/undelivered before.

Ignore it. It's not a WiFi patent. (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42779409)

In order to be found in violation of this patent, your violation must satisfy all the claims listed on the patent.

Claims #3, #24, #37, #46 refer to an analog voice signal, not present in WiFi data communications.
Claims #23, #36, #45, specifically refer to a modem

Additionally, most of this patent seems to be algorithmic. There are a number of claims that would be thrown out based on them describing
a mathematical function.

This would not survive a re-examination, but since it expires so soon, it wouldn't even make the short list.

Chnage Your SSID (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42779415)

Change your SSID as follows

Suck_It_Bitch!

Depends on costs (1)

M0j0_j0j0 (1250800) | about a year and a half ago | (#42779457)

But if it get serious, close the company, and open again with new name.

Are you using simultaneous voice and data? (1)

walmass (67905) | about a year and a half ago | (#42779459)

The patent in question is for "Side-channel communications in simultaneous voice and data transmission "

Does this apply to you? How? I run a business, and I use WiFi. I couldn't figure out how the legal threat applies to me. Can you think of how exactly this applies to you? If not, you could simply ignore the letter.

And while I am not an attorney, if you are going to get sued then sole-proprietorship is kinda risky if you have significant personal assets. Think about converting to a LLC. They can still take the company, but they can't take your house

A frivolous litigant (1)

udippel (562132) | about a year and a half ago | (#42779467)

... should be the next monkey sent to space by the Iranian Space Programm.

Money is the factor (1)

chriscappuccio (80696) | about a year and a half ago | (#42779507)

Unless you have some significant amount of money, and unless they have some kind of significant infringement claim, if neither of those are true, then you really have nothing for them to go after, combined with the fact that the patent expires soon, this seems like a desperate act. If they won't go after a business with a large amount of money, that should say a lot. If they are only looking for a quick settlement, then I agree with some of the previous posters, hire an experienced patent attorney to send them a strong Denial + Fuck You letter. Expect to pay for some 5 hours of attorney time for them to review the patent, your company, and develop some basic strategy should you get sued in the future. The letter may need to be written with a strategy in mind. These attorneys typically cost $275 to $500 per hour, and you may need one in your state, or in the state of Delaware.

Don't ignore them, if they do file a lawsuit, you want your record to show your consistent position from the very beginning. The patent details generic principles as applied to 1980s phone modem technology, it's not exactly a slam-dunk for them and if they aren't suing big guys with deep pockets, it's because they have little go on and they are looking for guys who are scared into quick settlement. They want to make $10,000 while paying for $275 of attorney time themselves. If that's the true situation, then Denial + Fuck You is going to be the end of the harassment. If they have deep pockets and are looking for blood, you are probably one of many being sued and the attorneys will waste your time and money for months or years to come. I'd say good luck, but who the fuck wants to hear that?

You probably won't be able to avoid some costs... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42779509)

But this sounds like a pure and simple shakedown as just reading the patent requires a few things:

Analog signals. Digital signals. Voice. Data. All simultaneous.

How this all works into a WiFi system is certainly questionable, and a competent patent attorney should be able to help you send a suitably nasty letter to the other company telling them where to shove their patent. The key words here are 'analog' and 'voice'. Even if you were using VOIP (to cover the simultaneous voice component of the patent), VOIP is -all digital- and thus fails the analog component of the patent claim. In fact, the whole WiFi system is -all digital- as well, thus failing the analog/digital muxing component of the patent.

Fight it. What this company is doing is trying to milk whatever they can, while they can, looking for suckers to pay them for needless and worthless patents.

Read The Fucking Article/Question People! (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42779539)

The article clearly states many facts that are questioned or stated as courses of action from the respondents in this thread.

He is explicitly asking how to find a lawyer.
He is not asking for advice technical or legal from Slashdotters, only how to find a lawyer!
He is already an S Corp, that's what a sole proprietorship corporation is.

To the OP. You don't state where you are so, this is the best I can offer.

Check with the EFF.
Look at this Inc magazine article. [inc.com]
Do not speak to these vultures at all. Only your lawyer should contact them.

I'm curious if you are providing WiFi service, using it in your software, or simply have WiFi in your office?

If you have time and want some lulz contact The Oatmeal.

Accepting certified letters (5, Informative)

Okian Warrior (537106) | about a year and a half ago | (#42779543)

You shouldn't have accepted the certified letter.

Certified letters have to have the sender noted on the slip that you get from the post office. Sometimes the post office doesn't do this (I have to remind my postal carrier all the time), but if you return the slip with "WHO IS THE SENDER?" written on it then they will fill it out properly and redeliver it.

If the sender isn't someone you know, or with whom you have a business arrangement (and from whom you might be expecting such a letter), don't take delivery. Don't send it back "refused delivery", just don't go get it. You can claim that you were out of town, never got the note, never had time to get it, or otherwise had a legitimate excuse. They can't do anything unless they have proof of "notice of service", which means that they have proof that they contacted you for the suit.

A certified letter is proof of service (ie - you were served with the letter), and they can use this to file suit against you.

If you don't accept the letter, they have to hire someone to personally hand you the notice. This costs them money - in my area the sheriff charges $80 for serving letters. The sheriff will get to it "when he gets to it", which in practice means anywhere from 2 weeks to never.

(As a personal anecdote, some bank in NYC decided from their internal records that they had been paying my NH property taxes for the last 5 years, and "would I just enclose a check for this and send it back"? I never accepted any of their certified letters, and they couldn't be bothered to send a person out to deliver the notice personally. Eventually they gave up. I had cancelled checks going back 5 years, but couldn't convince them otherwise because "their records showed payments for the last 5 years.")

This is one way to deal with frivolous lawsuits. If the lawsuit is genuine, then these sorts of barriers won't matter and you can address the legitimate legal issues. If the lawsuit is genuine and is something that you should address, then they should have no problem sending you information in a regular letter, which isn't considered proof of service.

I know this advice will cause the real lawyers here to cringe and complain, but then again they don't have any good ways to block frivolous suits.

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