In eight nearly identical lawsuits filed Wednesday with a federal court in Eastern Texas, Product Association Technologies LLC, a holding company registered to inventor and prolific patent litigator Leigh M. Rothschild, alleges digital platforms that frequently include shoppable hyperlinks are infringing patented technology around that idea.
The patent claims to describe the method of disseminating “product information” over the Internet and a related ability for online shoppers to purchase goods on other sites by way of hyperlinks.
Yahoo, Shopzilla, IAC Search and Media Inc., Clique Media Group, the operator of Who What Wear, are also facing similar allegations by PAT.
All of the companies either declined to comment on the allegations or could not be reached.
In the complaints, PAT said the companies’ alleged use of U.S. Patent Number 6,154,738 is “causing [it] irreparable harm and monetary damage” and asked the court to enjoin the sites from using the technology. PAT is also seeking unspecified damages.
Counsel for PAT could not be reached for comment.
PAT is what’s considered in legal terms a “non-practicing entity,” or a company that only holds patents and other types of intellectual property but doesn’t put them to use, and Rothschild was ranked number one on a list of 2015’s top patent litigators compiled by RPX Corp., which advises corporations on reducing exposure to IP litigation.
During 2015, RPX said Rothschild had filed more than 140 patent lawsuits, but data for 2016 has yet to be released.
While Rothschild is listed as an inventor on certain registered patents, the ‘738 patent being asserted against the shopping sites was invented and registered by Charles Gainor in 1999. It’s now technically owned by patent holding company Intellectual Ventures, which Rothschild has an association with and has sold several of his patents to, according to the company’s web site.
The possibility of asserting actionable patent rights on such a broad use of hyperlinks by shopping web sites will likely be an uphill battle given the U.S. Supreme Court’s precedential decision in Alice Corp. v. CLS Bank, which found that abstract ideas surrounding the Internet are by and large ineligible for patent protection.
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