Uniloc USA, Inc. et al v. Apple Inc.
- Filed: 06/14/2016
- Case Updated Daily
- Latest Docket Entry: 02/16/2021
May 25, 2019
The Federal Circuit has breathed new life into a campaign begun by Uniloc Corporation Pty. Limited in April 2016—before the Australian NPE began ramping up its litigation activity in 2017, before it acquired the large portfolio of patents from Pendrell Corporation in early 2018, and before it transferred control over its patent assets to Fortress Investment Group LLC in May 2018. Throughout 2016 and 2017, Uniloc accused a wide range of defendants of infringing up to four patents, sourced from IBM, through their software licensing and delivery systems. Multiple decisions in the Eastern District of Texas, however, invalidated all four patents under Alice, stopping the campaign in its tracks. Now, in a May 24, 2019 nonprecedential opinion, the Federal Circuit has reversed the district court as to two of those patents while affirming the invalidity of the other two. The case has been remanded back to Texas for further proceedings in the underlying cases, filed against ADP, Big Fish Games, BitDefender, and Kaspersky Lab, but the decision could revive litigation dropped as to other defendants as well.
Uniloc Files Four More Cases Against Amazon, Asserting Two Patents New to Litigation and Two at Issue in an Existing CampaignJuly 13, 2018
Uniloc 2017 LLC (identified as the asserted patents’ owner) and Uniloc USA, Inc. (identified as their exclusive licensee) have collectively filed four new lawsuits against Amazon (2:18-cv-00286, 2:18-cv-00287, 2:18-cv-00289, 2:18-cv-00290) in the Eastern District of Texas. Two of those cases appear to have launched new campaigns, separately asserting for the first time in litigation one patent generally related to digital video compression, and another generally related to providing variable bit rate in a streaming service. The other two cases add Amazon to an existing Uniloc campaign, begun in June 2016 by plaintiffs Uniloc Luxembourg S.A. (as patent owner) and Uniloc USA (as exclusive licensee), which have together sued more than 30 defendants over a family of patents broadly concerning group voice messaging, in complaints previously filed through June 2017. These other new complaints also identify Uniloc 2017 as the patents’ owner and Uniloc USA as their exclusive licensee.
March 16, 2018
The Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) saw activity in a variety of notable campaigns throughout February 2018, with petitions for inter partes review (IPR) filed against publicly traded Quarterhill Inc. as well as Fundamental Innovation Systems International LLC, Intellectual Ventures LLC, Realtime Data LLC, and Uniloc Corporation Pty. Limited. The Board also instituted trial in February for IPRs against General Patent Corporation, Oyster Optics, LLC, and Uniloc. In addition, the PTAB issued final decisions throughout February in IPRs against a range of different patent owners, including publicly traded NPEs (Acacia Research Corporation; InterDigital, Inc.; and VirnetX Inc.), an individual inventor (Daniel L. Flamm), and privately held plaintiffs (ChanBond, LLC; Makor Issues & Rights Ltd.; Papst Licensing GmbH & Company Kg; and Personalized Media Communications, LLC).
October PTAB Activity Includes Petitions Against Repeat Players and Cancellation of Claims from Realtime Data PatentNovember 2, 2017
In October 2017, the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) saw the filing of petitions for inter partes review (IPR) against a variety of frequent litigants, including publicly traded NPEs Acacia Research Corporation and Xperi Corporation, as well as privately held Monument Patent Holdings, LLC and Uniloc Corporation Pty. Limited. The Board also instituted trial in October for IPRs against multiple Acacia subsidiaries, Uniloc, and Papst Licensing GmbH & Company Kg. In addition, the PTAB issued an IPR final decision cancelling multiple claims from a data compression patent held by prolific plaintiff Realtime Data LLC, including the single claim that Riverbed Technology (one of the petitioners for the IPR) was found to infringe in a $4.3M verdict in May, with other final decisions issued in campaigns waged by TQ Delta LLC and publicly traded Quarterhill Inc. IPRs against IP Bridge, Inc. and Mobile Telecommunications Technologies, LLC also ended in termination in October after the patent owners requested adverse judgments.
October 7, 2017
In September 2017, the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) saw more than ten petitions filed in NPE campaigns involving networking and related technologies such as cybersecurity, including those waged by publicly traded Finjan Holdings, Inc.; prolific private litigant Realtime Data LLC; and Oyster Optics, LLC. Trial was instituted in September for an inter partes review (IPR) against Finjan and in IPRs against other frequent plaintiffs, including MyMail, Ltd. and Sound View Innovations, LLC. The Board issued final decisions in two covered business method (CBM) reviews against Uniloc Corporation Pty. Limited, the first AIA reviews against the NPE to reach final decisions since March 2016, and only the fourth to date. The PTAB also issued final decisions in IPRs against publicly traded Document Security Systems, Inc. as well as Acceleration Bay, LLC; Mobile Telecommunications Technologies, LLC; and Personalized Media Communications, LLC; among other NPEs.
August 8, 2017
The case brought by Uniloc USA, Inc. and Uniloc Luxembourg S.A. (collectively, “Uniloc”) against Big Fish Games has been transferred from the Eastern District of Texas (2:17-cv-00172) to the Western District of Washington (2:17-cv-01183) by joint stipulation. Although Uniloc agreed to the transfer in this instance, its overall behavior in the wake of TC Heartland has bucked the general trend in which NPEs have either ridden the wave of transfers from Texas or shifted their efforts elsewhere. Many NPEs have increasingly avoided the Eastern District of Texas in new filings while either conceding to venue challenges or dismissing and re-filing existing cases in other venues, with early favorites including the District of Delaware, the Northern District of Illinois, and the Northern District of California. Uniloc, by contrast, has continued to file litigation in the Eastern District of Texas and has shown a greater willingness to push back against venue motions.
July PTAB Activity Includes Petitions Against Repeat Players and Decisions in Networking and Semiconductor CampaignsAugust 4, 2017
The Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) continued to see petitions for AIA review filed against prolific litigants in July, including a wave of petitions against Uniloc Corporation Pty. Limited across four separate campaigns, with petitions also brought against General Patent Corporation, Intellectual Ventures LLC (IV), Papst Licensing GmbH & Company Kg, and Quarterhill Inc. Meanwhile, throughout July, the Board instituted trial for inter partes reviews (IPRs) filed in semiconductor campaigns waged by Harvard University and the California Institute of Technology, with trial also instituted in campaigns related to network data compression (Realtime Data LLC), servers and data management (IV), and anti-malware technology (Finjan Holdings, Inc.). Final decisions issued by the Board in July included one that cancelled claims from a patent that has been asserted by Rothschild Connected Devices Innovations, LLC, an NPE controlled by inventor Leigh M. Rothschild, against more than 60 defendants.
July 8, 2017
The Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) saw petitions for AIA review filed against a variety of prolific litigants in June 2017, including General Patent Corporation, Intellectual Ventures LLC (IV), Quarterhill Inc. (f/k/a Wi-LAN Inc.), Realtime Data LLC, Uniloc Corporation Pty. Limited, and Xperi Corporation (f/k/a Tessera Holding Corporation). Also in June, the PTAB instituted trial for petitions brought against patents asserted in a variety of sprawling campaigns, including some waged by Acacia Research Corporation, IV, Papst Licensing, Quarterhill, and VirnetX Inc. The Board further issued final decisions throughout June in AIA reviews against patents involved in several notable campaigns, including some waged by Document Security Systems, Inc., Elm 3DS Innovations LLC, Empire IP LLC, and Quarterhill.
June 8, 2017
Since the US Supreme Court issued its decision in TC Heartland v. Kraft Foods Group Brands, RPX has seen an upswing in venue-related filings by both plaintiffs and defendants—with indications that some NPEs may be throwing in the towel on Texas, while others are seemingly digging in. Defendants have also begun to adapt their defensive strategies, asserting more comprehensive interpretations of the patent venue statute and proactively maintaining their right to bring venue challenges down the road.
TC Heartland returned a key portion of the patent venue statue, one that allows infringement suits to be brought where a defendant corporation “resides”, to its prior interpretation: such a defendant “resides” only in its state of incorporation. Although venue is still proper under the same statute where a defendant has “committed acts of infringement” and has “a regular and established place of business”, the ruling could significantly limit available venues—potentially impacting both new filings and existing lawsuits.
RPX has been tracking activity in each of those categories since TC Heartland issued. To receive RPX’s new daily transfer alert email summarizing all transfer motions and orders, subscribe here.
Evolving NPE Responses
Conceding to Transfer
RPX has seen a variety of cases in which NPEs, including prolific Texas plaintiffs, have simply conceded the issue of venue since TC Heartland issued. On May 30, Texas-based Monument Patent Holdings, LLC subsidiary Visual Effect Innovations, LLC stipulated to the transfer of its case against NVIDIA (a Delaware corporation headquartered in Santa Clara) from the Eastern District of Texas to the Northern District of California. The parties’ joint stipulation explicitly cited TC Heartland. Texas plaintiff Hypermedia Navigation LLC, an affiliate of monetization firm IP Valuation Partners LLC, made a similar concession in its case against Yahoo (a Delaware corporation headquartered in Sunnyvale), with both parties filing a joint motion to transfer that lawsuit to the same California district. Both Monument and IP Valuation Partners have both taken advantage of the Eastern District of Texas through the formation of multiple NPEs in the state, each designed to wage a single campaign in the Eastern District. RPX will continue to monitor whether those patterns continue as the effects of TC Heartland become clearer.
Picking New Venues
Other plaintiffs have fought back by dismissing existing cases and re-filing in districts where they consider venue to be proper under the Court’s decision. For example, prolific litigant IP Edge LLC (the top filer in 2017 thus far) has begun to shift its assertion efforts outside Texas. Just three days after TC Heartland issued, the NPE’s affiliate Venadium LLC filed five new cases in the Northern District of Illinois: three against Paylocity, State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance, and W.W. Grainger—each alleged to reside in that district—as well as two cases against Delaware entities Allstate Insurance and Hyatt Hotels that are alleged to have a principal office in Illinois.
Additionally, Iron Oak Technologies LLC voluntarily dismissed two of its Northern District of Texas cases on June 1, conceding that it is “unaware” of defendants Acer (incorporated in California) or Lenovo (incorporated in Delaware) “having a regular and established place of business” in that district. (See here for the stipulation of dismissal as to Acer, and here for the one pertaining to Lenovo.) That same day, the NPE then filed new actions against both defendants in the Western District of Texas, attaching to its complaints evidence that each has a remote office in the district. Similarly, Express Mobile, Inc.—faced with an existing motion to dismiss due to improper venue brought by defendant Alpine Consulting—notified the district court on the day that TC Heartland was published that it would not oppose that motion. Also that day, the NPE then filed a new case against Alpine in the Northern District of Illinois.
INVT SPE LLC, an NPE controlled by Fortress Investment Group LLC (which took over a campaign started by Inventergy, Inc.) followed that same strategy. On May 25, it both dismissed two suits filed against Apple and HTC in February (one each in the Eastern District of Texas) and filed two new suits against the two defendants in the District of New Jersey. While the previous complaints merely contained short, boilerplate language to establish venue, the new filings make specific allegations supporting its contention that venue is proper in New Jersey, including that the companies have retail locations in New Jersey, have employees in that state that interact with wireless carriers there, and actively list job openings in that district. (See here for the complaint against Apple, and here for the one against HTC.)
Doubling Down on Texas
While some NPEs have attempted to get ahead of TC Heartland, some have doubled down on their venues of choice—particularly the notoriously plaintiff-friendly Eastern District of Texas. A notable example occurred toward the end of last week, when Australian NPE Uniloc Corporation Pty. Limited filed a new set of complaints, some amended and others original, in the Eastern District against Google. While its previous pleadings had dedicated scarcely a paragraph or two to venue, Uniloc’s newest filings provide expansive venue-related allegations spanning over thirty pages. (See here for one of the new complaints against Google.) The NPE now prefaces its venue pleadings with a lengthy accounting of the defendant’s supposed connections to the Eastern District, listing a wide variety of Google products made available and supposedly used by customers there along with other alleged connections to the forum, including Google business locations, data collection efforts, and even its provision of services measuring traffic conditions. Uniloc has not felt the need for such extensive venue-related pleading in all of its new cases in the Eastern District—a new round of cases against Apple, also brought last week, contain the NPE’s more standard, minimal venue language.
Roping in Foreign Defendants
RPX has also begun to see early examples of cases addressing the issue of venue for foreign defendants, which the Supreme Court explicitly declined to discuss in TC Heartland. On May 31, CyWee Group Ltd., a British Virgin Islands entity affiliated with Industrial Technology Research Institute (ITRI), sued LG Electronics (LGE) in the Southern District of California along with two of its US subsidiaries, LG Electronics Mobilecomm USA (LGEMU) and LG Electronics USA (LGEUSA). The NPE’s complaint asserts that venue is proper in that district for LGEMU based on its incorporation in California. CyWee then pleads that LGEMU is an agent of LGEUSA, noting several ways that those entities have allegedly been equated with LGE in public communications. Venue is alleged to be proper against the South Korean corporate parent both because “it is not a resident of the United States and may, therefore, be sued in any judicial district” and because it has a “regular and established place of business” in the district through its purported agents (and has allegedly committed acts of infringement in the district).
Evolving Defensive Strategies
Moving Beyond Residence
While venue motions filed in the immediate wake of TC Heartland focused on corporate residence, RPX has more recently seen an increasing number of defendants asserting improper venue due to the lack of a “regular and established place of business” in the original district. One such example occurred this past week in the sprawling campaign waged by Realtime Data LLC. Less than two weeks after a jury in the Eastern District of Texas awarded the NPE $4.32M in a trial against Riverbed Technologies, that same defendant filed a declaratory judgment action against Realtime Data in the Northern District of California. In the new complaint, Riverbed pleads that because it is not incorporated in Texas and does not have a “regular and established place of business” in the Eastern District of Texas, venue is not proper there. Meanwhile, Realtime Data faces reinvigorated venue challenges in other cases in its Texas campaign, including a motion to dismiss for improper venue or transfer to the District of Colorado brought by Spectra Logic (under a TC Heartland theory, prior to the decision’s issuance), a motion to dismiss for improper venue filed by Barracuda Networks, and a motion to dismiss for improper venue filed by Carbonite. In addition, on May 30, Huawei challenged the choice of venue in a case brought by Smart Wearable Technologies Inc., a subsidiary of Wi-LAN Inc. (which changed its name to Quarterhill Inc. on June 1 as part of a business re-organization and shift away from patent assertion). That motion alleges that venue is not proper in the Western District of Virginia, asserting that as a Texas corporation, defendant Huawei Technologies does not reside in the Western District of Virginia. Huawei also argues that it lacks a “regular and established place of business” in that district.
Additionally, some defendants have tacked venue challenges onto motions to dismiss for pleading inadequacies, arguing that the plaintiff had not sufficiently pled acts of infringement anywhere, much less in the suit’s venue. On May 25, Apple filed a Rule 12 motion to dismiss in a case brought against it by Prowire LLC in the District of Delaware. The company asserts that the NPE has not plausibly alleged infringement of the asserted claims, making that venue improper as a result because venue is only proper in a district where the defendant has “committed acts of infringement and has a regular and established place of business”. A similar argument was asserted by Lowes in a June 1 motion to dismiss filed against Monument Patent Holdings, LLC subsidiary Clean Energy Management Solutions, LLC.
At least one defendant has withdrawn a prior motion to change venues for convenience in light of TC Heartland. For example, on June 5, District Judge Robert W. Schroeder, III granted Dell’s motion to withdraw such a motion in a case filed against it by Cypress Lake Software, Inc., in favor of a future motion to dismiss for improper venue, which need not address the relative convenience of the two districts or public interest factors.
Prevention of Waiver
One potential consequence of TC Heartland is that defendants relying on the previous definition of corporate residence may have waived their ability to challenge venue in existing suits. RPX has seen parties proactively preserve their ability to challenge waiver in pleadings and motions, both since TC Heartland and in the months leading up to the decision, with defendants sometimes explicitly stating that they have reserved those rights in anticipation of TC Heartland. Two days after TC Heartland was decided, STMicro filed a motion to dismiss an Eastern District of Texas case that Semcon IP Inc. (a subsidiary of Quest Patent Research Corporation) brought against it roughly one year ago. Heading off any waiver argument, STMicro notes that it pled improper venue as an affirmative defense in its answer to Semcon IP’s complaint, that the TC Heartland theory was not available before May 22, and that, once the decision came down, it filed its motion within two days. A similar argument was raised by NVIDIA in the transfer motion that it filed in the Texas Visual Effect Innovations case, with a footnote expressly stating it had not conceded proper venue by seeking a transfer for convenience and reserving the right to object after TC Heartland was decided.
June 8, 2017
A variety of NPEs have reacted to the US Supreme Court’s decision in TC Heartland v. Kraft Foods Group Brands (2016-0341) by either dismissing and re-filing their cases in other districts or simply conceding venue challenges. In contrast, Australian NPE Uniloc Corporation Pty. Limited has further dug its heels into the Eastern District of Texas. Shortly after Uniloc filed a series of new and amended complaints against Google, designed to establish proper venue in the Eastern District, defendants in some of the NPE’s other Texas litigation filed a host of venue motions against it. On June 2, Ubisoft (2:16-cv-00745, 2:16-cv-00781) filed two motions both seeking transfer to the Northern District of California or dismissal for improper venue in litigation targeting its software licensing and notification systems, joined by a similar motion filed by Piriform on June 7 (in a consolidated action against AVG, 2:16-cv-00393) seeking dismissal or transfer to Delaware. Ubisoft filed another such motion in Uniloc’s software update campaign on June 2 (2:17-cv-00175), also seeking transfer to the Northern District of California or dismissal for improper venue, joined by another Northern District transfer/dismissal motion brought by Box (2:17-cv-00173), with campaign co-defendant Zendesk (2:17-cv-00176) filing its own motion to dismiss due to improper venue that same day.
June 1, 2017
The US Supreme Court’s TC Heartland decision on proper venue in patent cases has prompted new filings in multiple litigation campaigns, including in the group voice messaging campaign of Uniloc USA, Inc. and Uniloc Luxembourg S.A. (Uniloc). In March, before TC Heartland, Uniloc filed three complaints in the Eastern District of Texas against different Google products: Google Hangouts (alleging infringement of 7,535,890; 8,199,747; 8,724,622; 8,995,433); the Android Messages app (alleging infringement of the ‘890, ‘622, and ‘433 patents); and the Allo messaging app (also alleging infringement of the ‘890, ‘622, and ‘433 patents). Just over a week after TC Heartland, Uniloc has responded, at least with respect to its cases against Alphabet (Google) in this campaign, by filing amended complaints in each of those March cases that both drop the ‘890 and ‘433 patents and add lengthy allegations in support of Uniloc’s contention that venue remains proper in the Eastern District. On the same day, Uniloc also filed new, original complaints against Google, asserting the ‘890 and ‘433 patents against Hangouts (2:17-cv-00465), the Android Messages app (2:17-cv-00467), and the Allo messaging app (2:17-cv-00466), again with much more detailed venue allegations.
June 1, 2017
The Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) saw 54 petitions for AIA review brought against NPEs in May, up from 20 such petitions filed in April. May PTAB filings included a resurgence in petitions against publicly traded NPEs, including Acacia Research Corporation; Pendrell Corporation; Quest Patent Research Corporation; VoIP-Pal.com, Inc.; Xperi Corporation (f/k/a Tessera Holding Corporation); and Wi-LAN Inc. (WiLAN) (which was renamed to Quarterhill Inc. on June 1). A variety of private litigants were also hit by PTAB petitions in May, including Blackbird Tech LLC, Global Equity Management (SA) Pty. Ltd., General Patent Corporation, Realtime Data LLC, and Uniloc Corporation Pty. Limited.
May 5, 2017
The Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) saw a decline in petitions for AIA review filed against NPES in April 2017. While the total number of April petitions, 120, was somewhat less than the three-year monthly average of 150, NPEs were hit by 20 petitions in April, a 68.8 percent decline from 64 the previous month. The dip in April PTAB filings comes in the midst of an overall increase in PTAB petitions over the previous year, with the total number of petitions filed so far in fiscal year 2017 nearing 1,200 as of the date of this report (compared to just over 930 petitions during the same period last year). Prolific private litigants remain a regular target for PTAB petitions, with petitions filed in April against IP Edge LLC and Uniloc Corporation Pty. Limited, while Acacia Research Corporation was the only publicly traded NPE named in petitions brought during that month.
March 26, 2017
Uniloc USA, Inc. and Uniloc Luxembourg S.A. (Uniloc ) have filed three new cases, two against Alphabet (Google) (2:17-cv-00214; 2:17-cv-000224) and one against Amazon (2:17-cv-00228). The -214 case against accuses Google of infringing three patents (7,535,890; 8,724,622; 8,995,433) from a first family of five at issue in its group voice messaging campaign through its Android Messages app, while the company is accused in the -224 case of infringing those same three patents, as well as a fourth (8,199,747) from the same family, through its Google Hangout app. Uniloc asserts three patents from a second five-member family (7,853,000; 7,804,948; 8,571,194) against Amazon, targeting provision of Amazon Chime. This family generally relates to initiating conference calls from an instant message app.
July 7, 2016
Uniloc USA, Inc. and Uniloc Luxembourg S.A. have continued to expand their new smartphone messaging campaign with six new cases filed against individual defendants, including Facebook (2:16-cv-00728)—hit again over its Messenger app, following an earlier suit against subsidiary WhatsApp—as well as Sony (2:16-cv-00732), TangoMe (d/b/a Tango) (2:16-cv-00733), and Verizon (AOL) (2:16-cv-00722). These newest filings assert multiple combinations of five patents (7,535,890; 8,199,747; 8,243,723; 8,724,622; 8,995,433) generally related to group voice messaging. Uniloc acquired the patents from monetization firm Empire IP LLC in June, shortly before the start of this campaign, as indicated by an assignment executed four days before Uniloc began filing litigation. As in previous complaints, Uniloc’s newest defendants are accused of infringement through various smartphone messaging apps.
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June 17, 2016
Uniloc USA, Inc. and Uniloc Luxembourg S.A. have continued their spring filing spree with the start of a new campaign, asserting various combinations of five patents generally related to group voice messaging against eight defendants, including Apple (2:16-cv-00638), BlackBerry (2:16-cv-00639), Facebook (WhatsApp) (2:16-cv-00645), and Samsung (2:16-cv-00642). Each defendant is accused of infringement through their respective smartphone messaging apps. While Uniloc pleads that it is both the exclusive licensee and the owner by assignment of all asserted patents, the patents’ most recent recorded assignee is the prolific patent monetization firm Empire IP LLC.
Access to the full article is currently available to RPX members only. Please contact us if you need further information.