Smartphone Makers Both Exit and Enter Special Character Campaign

March 29, 2019

Rondevoo Technologies, LLC has added a case against HMD Global and Nokia (1:19-cv-00595) to its litigation campaign over a single patent that generally pertains to “clustering” keys on an input device, such as a telephone keypad or computer keyboard, to facilitate selection entry. The NPE has targeted the ability to enter alternate (e.g., accented) characters through the keypads of certain Android smartphones in complaints filed earlier against HTC, LG Electronics (LGE), Sony, and ZTE, calling out the Nokia 9 PureView in its latest complaint. The case against Sony was dismissed without prejudice (before an answer was filed) in January 2019, while the ZTE suit was dismissed in March, with prejudice in light of a settlement after the defendant answered. HTC has also answered, while the court granted LGE an extension of the deadline to respond Rondevoo’s complaint.

Rondevoo was formed in California in April 2017. It has disclosed Red Dragon Innovations, LLC as its parent corporation, further noting that Red Dragon Innovations is “managed and owned” by ALY Ventures, LLC and 2S Ventures, LLC. State records characterize Rondevoo as a holding company, identifying James Martin Breese, Jr. as its manager and Pasadena-based Cotman IP Law Group as its agent. Daniel C. Cotman of Cotman IP controls 2S Ventures, LLC. Red Dragon itself has not filed any patent litigation to date, but it is affiliated with other entities (e.g.Hailo Technologies, LLC) that have. It was also formed in California, in November 2016, with state disclosures confirming that it is controlled by Cotman’s 2S Ventures and ALY Ventures, the latter yet another California entity, formed in October 2016 with San Gabriel resident Pai Lin Yeh as its manager (and Cotman IP as its agent). Breese and Yeh are connected to Cotman in surprising ways, involving curative yoga, a school of mysticism, and the Panda Restaurant Group, among other things; a detailed treatment of those connections can be found at “New Campaign Accents the Ability to Enter Special Characters Through Smartphone Keypads” (June 2018).

Currently available USPTO records identify two dozen issued US patents held by Rondevoo, resulting in three litigation campaigns to date. Rondevoo pleads that the “inventors” of the patent asserted in this campaign (6,377,685) recognized “a need for improving cluster key arrangements for mobile devices such as cell-phones”, citing to the patent’s abstract for the statement that “[t]his cluster key arrangement may be mechanically configured or electronically configured”. It issued in April 2002 with estimated priority date in April 1999, naming a single inventor, Ravi C. Krishnan, the apparent president of GemPad, a startup of uncertain ongoing operations “focused on user interface (hardware/embedded software) with tactile feel for smartphones and consumer electronics as a converged interactive solution (as contrasted with the very cool but primarily navigational (i.e., non-interactive) non-tactile interface such as on the Apple iPhone”. Krishnan assigned the patent to Red Dragon Innovations in January 2017 as “Ravi C. Krishnan, LLC” and in corrected form (with the LLC removed) in January 2018. As noted by RPX last year, Red Dragon passed the ‘685 patent along to Rondevoo in late May.

Rondevoo’s first litigation campaign, begun in late 2017, concerned a patent generally related to a ballpoint pen-style input device, hitting NeoLab Convergence North America, Luidia, Image Recognition Integrated Systems, Matisse, Livescribe, and Wacom (in that order). The last cases in that campaign were dismissed in February 2019. Last August, Rondevoo asserted a patent broadly directed to a bag-style container with bullet-resistant deployable panels against Force Training Institute in a short-lived case ending last September.

The rest of Rondevoo’s direct patent holdings comprise two portfolios: a three-member patent family, generally related to image analysis; and a sixteen-patent portfolio, generally related to “nano” sensors, circuit elements, packaging, and genetic engineering. Neither portfolio has generated litigation yet. The image analysis patents issued to named inventors Carl W. Cotman, Charles F. Chubb, Yoshiyuki Inagaki, and Brian Cummings, all of Southern California; Carl Cotman assigned them to Rondevoo in September 2018. The relationship between Carl and Daniel Cotman of Cotman IP, if any, is unclear. Further details about the “nano” portfolio can be read at “Prolific Inventor Assigns “Nano” Portfolio to Red Dragon’s Rondevoo, Three Other Patents to Red Dragon’s Eloqui Voice Systems” (March 2019).

Rondevoo’s latest complaint characterizes HMD Global as the “exclusive licensee of Nokia Corporation’s ‘Nokia” trademark”, under which it allegedly sells the accused smartphones. The NPE also contends that the defendants became aware of the ‘685 patent at least as early as September 2001, upon the publication of a Finnish patent filed by a Nokia subsidiary that refers to the ‘685 patent “as a prior art reference”. A one-page assessment of Rondevoo’s special character campaign can be downloaded from RPX Insight here. 3/29, District of Delaware.