I’ve been digging around on this case since last fall. This week I got a less than complementary e-mail from Scott Tatro (he’s the guy who signed a deal to license the patent in question (that site provided by those who want you to license it) to other companies, so he’s certainly got a vested interest in the outcome, interview with him from 2005 here). His e-mail, I suspect sent to many members of the press, basically chastized us for not covering such and important case. Morever, he writes:
It would be very easy to review and report on the antitrust laws that clearly state that an association is not allowed to influence, in any way, the independent thinking or decision-making regarding intellectual property and its licensing. We recognize that unless you’re going for a Pulitzer, its unlikely that your coverage takes on that topic. However; independent verification of these facts are so easy to do, don’t you owe it to your wider readership to let at least the facts come out?
He refers to the National Association of Realtors (NAR) and its participation in this matter. It funded, he says, much of the Sarkisian defense to the tune of $1.2 million. (Diane Sarkisian is a successful real estate agent outside Philadelphia who was socked with the patent infringement case for using real estate maps which violate the patent.) He suggests, I guess, that NAR is doing something illegal?
I’m not aiming for a pulitzer (I’m not even trained as a journalist!) and I found this “request” startling. I wonder how the folks who are journalists feel? I do agree this is an important issue to our community, that’s why I cover it as well as I can. However, I wonder what it means that someone with a vested interest like Tatro is prodding the press to support his “side.”
Tatro goes on:
...TReND and the NAR have now claimed that there is “substantial evidence” of prior art. It might surprise your readers to find out that the ONLY prior art submitted in this case is the exact prior art provided as evidence by REAL itself. This MAPINFO prior art was suggested as the most likely “prior art” candidate by many companies over the past decade. However; the original founder of MAPINFO weighed in on this issue nearly 12 years ago, as an investor, board member, and mentor when EQUIAS founder Scott Tatro acquired the first US ‘989 license. The original developer of the MAPINFO software, John Haller, has also weighed-in on this issue with Scott Tatro, and further confirmed that there is no way that MAPINFO can touch that priority date. A simple review of the expert witness reports submitted in this case will further detail that there is no prior art.
That’s why we have judges!
But, back to the state of the case. I’ve been digging around the case documents and found the history. There are some interesting twists, which frankly, I don’t understand. Here’s the history, shortened, and edited, with my comments.
July 12, 2005 - The complaint by REAL was filed against Diane Sarkisian and others.
Dec 13, 2005 - Diane Sarkisian submitted a counterclaim. According to Inman News it related to a number of defends breaking anti-trust and other laws, in particular, it alleges, the group created a “‘bottom up approach’...designed to target individual real estate agents, who can not afford to employ patent counsel or to fight expensive patent lawsuits.” Top Realty notes the countersuit includes violating “the Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) and Pennsylvania state laws of defamation, false light and trade libel.” The article also notes an intimidation scheme where REAL sends a letter alleging infringement, then Mark Tatro’s Equias (see above) swoops in to offer a solution, a $10,000 license.
Jan 13, 2006 - Judge Stewart Dalzell (Eastern District Court of Pennsylvania, in Philadelphia) set this timetable for motions: Discovery was due April 28, motions for summary judgement due May 12 and responses to those motions by May 26.
April 24, 2006 - Motion to extend discovery to June signed.
April 28, 2006 - A motion regard Mark Tornetta (originator of the patent and has tried twice before to get payment for it in infringement cases; both were dropped) is signed by the judge. It reads:
Stipulation and order that Mark Tornetta shall not, by his entry into or presence in the eastern district of Pennsylvania, or anywhere within its territorial jurisdiction, in connection with the agreement between Sarkisian and REAL and the resultant subpoena, be subjecting himself to the personal jurisdiction of this court in civil action no. 06-cv-0170, etc.
I have no idea what that means.
June 13, 2006 - Dates for discovery and motions are again moved up, this time to July 28 and August 14.
August 8, 2006 - New dates are ok’d by the judge: summary judgement filings are now jue Sept 11 and responses to them are due Sept 25.
So, what this means, I believe is that discovery is complete and come late September, the Judge will have all the information to rule on both sides request for summary judgement, that is, requests to side with them. No doubt, whatever happens, an appeal is likely. There’s too much money at stake for this to sit idle.