Acacia Lawsuit Inches Forward

Gretchen Gallen
SANTA ANA, Calif. – Interpretations on how Friday's court hearing went in the Acacia counter-suit may vary depending on viewpoints from the defendants and the plaintiffs.

But the upshot is that the discovery period for the next scheduled hearing on Feb. 6 will be significantly shortened and could potentially shine favorably on the defense, in this case a group of thirteen adult entertainment companies who are contesting the validity of Acacia's streaming media patents.

The nearly six-hour meeting consisted of Judge James Ware, Acacia's legal team, and lawyers from Boston-based patent specialist Fish & Richardson, the firm representing the defendants in the case.

According to Spike Goldberg, one of the few litigants present at the hearing, shortening the discovery process will help avoid an extended and costly investigative period, something they were trying to avoid, during which Acacia could strengthen its case. It will also hasten the process to the point where the judge interprets the wording of the patents; a pinnacle moment in the case for both sides.

The issue at that point will be whether Acacia's patent claims can hold water, a determination that stands to affect many Internet industries, not just adult, and how they proceed from this point on.

"The judge is initially going to look at the patents and decide on the wording and whether or not the definition of the patents is based on what Acacia is claiming," Goldberg told XBiz.

According to Goldberg, reaching this point so early in the case could nip the entire counter-suit in the bud and establish sooner than later that Acacia's patent claims reach beyond its grasp.

According to a source close to the case, it is possible that the judge could determine that granting the patents in the first place was wrong and illegal, and that the claims are too broad and based on ideas, not actual processes.

"If the judge says the wording doesn't apply to the Internet than this thing could be over," Goldberg told XBiz.

However, according to Goldberg, if February's hearing fails to dismiss the patents, then there is always prior art, which the defense feels is a strong point in its case against Acacia.

Acacia told XBiz that they were anxious to have their day in court, and that while February's meeting will limit how much evidence the parties can bring to the table, last week's hearing was neither a victory nor a defeat.

In the meantime, Acacia has filed a patent infringement lawsuit against On Command Corp., a provider of digital video services for more than 300,000 hotel rooms nationwide.

Shortly before filing suit, Acacia signed a licensing deal with LodgeNet Entertainment Corp. for use of its DMT streaming technology. LodgeNet is one of the largest providers of video services to the hotel industry.