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Stupid Patent of the Month Sanctioned, Must Pay Attorneys' Fees

When does a stupid patent become a really stupid patent?

When a court orders the stupid patent-holder to pay an alleged infringer's attorneys' fees, that's when. And so it is with the "Internet drink mixer," also called a "Stupid Patent of the Month" by the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

A federal appeals court said Rothschild Connected Devices Innovations must pay $43,000 for attorneys' fees as sanctions because the company willfully ignored pre-existing descriptions of its claimed invention. The decision could mark the beginning of the end of frivolous claims by companies like Rothschild, which had filed 58 cases against makers of almost anything that connects to the Internet.

"Risible" Patent Claim

Judge Haldane Robert Mayer, in the decision by the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, wasn't laughing when he called out the "risible" patent claim. He said the breadth of Rothschild's infringement claims was remarkable, including products such as:

  • Door locks
  • Thermostats
  • Digital cameras
  • Irrigation sprinklers
  • Coffeemakers
  • Washers
  • Dryers
  • Baby monitors
  • Air conditioners
  • Microwave ovens
  • Dishwashers
  • Smoke detectors
  • Ceiling fans
  • Window shades
  • Pool heaters
  • Telephones and horns

Internet of Anything

Rothschild's "090 patent" claim, the court said, described a method to "enable a user to customize products containing solids and fluids by allowing a server on the global computer network, e.g., the Internet, to instruct the hardware mixing the solids and fluids of the user's preferences for the final mix."

The company sued ADS Security, which provides home security systems, for violating the patent. The company responded with a motion to invalidate the patent and a demand that Rothschild pay its attorney's fees.

Rothschild then moved to dismiss the case, but ADS opposed the motion and asked the court for fees. ADS said the plaintiff had filed scores of lawsuits to "exploit the high cost to defend complex litigation and extract nuisance value settlements."

The Fourth Circuit agreed. "This suit never should have been filed, and ADS deserves to be fully compensated for the significant attorneys' fees it has incurred," Mayer wrote.

To quote a Washington Times report that lampooned the invention, the judge said Rothschild was "suing everyone who connects to the Internet."

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