EFF Injected With New Funding to Bust Patents

Rhett Pardon
SAN FRANCISCO – Attempting to put the brakes on patents that are overly broad, the Electronic Frontier Foundation said it will ramp up efforts to have the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office re-examine some patents.

“We seek to attack these types of patents,” EFF staff attorney Jason Schultz said. “These patents strip our right to use publicly available knowledge, disrupt ongoing research and innovation, and threaten to shut down important community-based projects.”

The EFF received a $50,000 grant from The Parker Family Foundation this week for the group's so-called Patent-Busting Project, which aims to challenge the validity of some patents.

The San Francisco-based organization is focusing on a number of patents that have tied up courts for years over patent disputes – and one is the battle over digital media technologies.

A number of online adult websites are fighting Acacia Media Technologies Corp. of Newport Beach, Calif., in U.S. District Court.

Acacia owns patents on the process of transmitting compressed audio or video. The series of patents, Acacia contends, cover virtually all types of on-demand transmission of compressed audio or video, whether online, over ordinary cable-TV cables, or through other means.

The company began a focused direction last year when it began seeking patent licensing revenue from a long list of adult entertainment companies which use one of the most fundamental multimedia technologies used on the Internet.

Acacia's targets also included the biggest Internet multimedia companies, cable giants and Fortune 500 companies.

A countersuit was filed against Acacia in February of this year on behalf of a group of webmasters passionate about contesting Acacia's patent claims.

The case is currently in a pre-trial Markman hearing process, which examines the patents' merits, and will have its next hearing on Tuesday.

Last week, Jenna Jameson tossed her hat into the ring in the battle against Acacia.

The porn superstar has been affiliated with the defense group for some time now, ever since she was named in class action lawsuit filed by Acacia in December 2003, but it is the first time that Jameson has officially announced her commitment to joining the other 12 companies that make up the Acacia defense group.

Jameson, whose Scottsdale, Ariz.-based ClubJenna Inc. marketing company operates more than a dozen websites for other adult performers, has said in previous interviews that she feels Acacia is using “strong-arm tactics” with the adult industry in its efforts to enforce its patents.

“I don’t think people realize the implications of what Acacia is trying to do,” Jameson said. “If Acacia succeeds in intimidating adult site owners, they will move to mainstream sites and begin charging fees that will have to be passed on to everyone who uses the Internet.”

Schultz of the EFF cited a number of patents that deserve to be re-examined, including one-click online shopping, No. 5,960,411; online shopping carts, No. 5,715,314; the hyperlink, No. 4,873,662; internationalizing domain names, No. 6,182,148, pop-up windows, No. 6,389,458; targeted banner ads, No. 6,026,368; paying with a credit card online, No. 6,289,319; framed browsing, Nos. 5,933,841 and 6,442,574; affiliate linking, No. 6,029,141; and video streaming, No. 5,132,992.

He said that overly broad patents will face a battle with his organization.

“We hope to clear the way for the public to enjoy the benefits of these technologies and help build the case for stronger reform to the patent system,” Schultz said.