University of California sues Mickey, Mark and Sam

Regents of the University of California and Eolas Technologies Inc., a company that helps the university make money from patents, filed suit against a trio of recognizable companies. Wal-Mart, Disney and Facebook are named in the patent infringement complaint.

The intellectual property lawsuit claims the companies infringed on four software patents. An official from the University of California said the court action was ordinary litigation except for the high-profile names listed as defendants.

Eolas Technologies is a patent licensee for the university. The company is noted for filing infringement cases and winning settlements for the school, including a 2007 settlement of more than $30 million from Microsoft Corp.

Revenue generated for the University of California through patent licensing agreements is enormous. Last year the university took in more than $200 million in licensing charges, increasing its take from the previous year by more than 61 percent. A UC Technology Transfer Annual Report stated that first and secondary university patent filings soared over the same period by 9 and 8.1 percent, respectively.

Wal-Mart officials responded to the lawsuit with alarm, saying they were taking the charges seriously. Disney and Facebook have not made public statements about the litigation.

The big companies charged with violating intellectual property laws have legal teams devoted to meeting such challenges. Internet consumer rights’ advocate The Electronic Frontier Foundation says corporations like Wal-Mart can afford to fight patent battles that small tech businesses cannot.

EFF, made up of digital legal specialists and observers, criticizes the government for creating vague and generic intellectual property rules. The nonprofit group believes investors are given too much exclusivity over inventions for too long, which hinders innovation.

Rules that apply to intellectual property change constantly and rapidly, especially those dealing with technology. More than one organization like the Electronic Frontier Foundation believes that companies should share technological inventions for the greater good.

Source: dailycal.org, “UC Regents file lawsuit claiming patent infringement,” D.J. Sellarole, Sept. 9, 2012