There’s no place like Texas. And if you’re holding a bunch of patents, there’s no place like the Eastern District of Texas.
U.S. District Judge Rodney Gilstrap hears more patent cases than any other judge in the country. His courtroom is known to be historically friendly to “patent trolls:” people or companies who hold patents, usually not to make anything, but to sue people with and collect big payouts.
But a funny thing happened on the way to Judge Gilstrap’s courtroom – the most litigious patent plaintiff was wiped out in one fell swoop, by Judge Gilstrap himself. Joe Mullin has long covered patent battles and intellectual property issues for Ars Technica.
Judge Gilstrap invalidated a patent belonging to a notorious patent troll eDekka LLC, Mullins says, under a law that bars patents of abstract ideas.
“That patent was used to sue more than 100 companies last year so that’s basically the end of eDekka’s business,” Mullin says.
The company worded their lawsuits vaguely, which allowed them to file so many claims of patent breach. The most recent lawsuit, against a discount golf supplier, looks similar to those the company has filed against a slew of other retailers.
Mullin says invalidating eDekka’s claim wipes out about 10 percent of Judge Gilstrap’s entire patent docket. Several Supreme Court cases came down to the court’s determination of whether an idea was considered “abstract” and therefore the company couldn’t file a valid infringement claim.
“A lot more judges are deciding, Hey – that’s just an abstract idea, you can’t get a patent on that, get out of court,” Mullin says. “That’s been good for defendants, bad for plaintiffs and bad for patent trolls that have no business other than suing people over patents.”