LOS ANGELES — As the race towards our virtual future escalates, a variety of players are attempting to get in on the act — including a rebuffed patent troll that after targeting a handful of smaller companies, decided to go after the Kickstarter crowdfunding platform.
The patent troll, TZU Technologies, reportedly filed six lawsuits in June, claiming infringement of its intellectual property, patent number 6,368,268.
The TZU claim is based on a 2002 patent issued to HasSex president Warren Sandvick, for a “stimulation system” that could be remotely controlled from another location — broadly encompassing the entire realm of teledildonics.
Among the targeted firms, Kickstarter (which could become embroiled in countless such nuisance suits) not only refused to pay, but also refused to keep quiet about TZU’s settlement terms — terms that were not offered to the other litigants, where the TZU suit remains active.
“This is a standard patent troll suit, the kind that, unfortunately, we have faced in the past,” Kickstarter general counsel Michal Rosenn told Ars, adding that the company is “fortunate to be in a position where we can afford to take these suits to court.”
Apparently the Cotman IP group, which represents TZU dropped the lawsuit against Kickstarter when it learned that the company was determined to fight it in court — something that TZU’s previous targets, such as Amsterdam-based startup Holland Haptics, with its new Frebble device, were unable to do.
Rosenn says that patent trolls are a huge problem, especially for cash-strapped startups.
“It’s exactly small businesses that are most vulnerable, because most can’t afford to litigate,” Rosenn explains. “Many businesses get liquidated because of patent trolls.”
For its part, Kickstarter has proactively lobbied Congress to push for patent reform.