My colleague Daniel Farris and I co-wrote this post.  Daniel is a part of my retail patent litigation team with strong technical experience related to internet and computer-based technologies.

Thanks to the Federal Circuit’s recent In re Staats decision, a favored patent troll tactic has just been strengthened.  Retailers are all too familiar with the tendency of patent trolls to take extremely broad positions regarding the scope of their often old and out-dated patents.  One prime example of this is on display in SFA Systems v., et al. (E.D. Tex.).  SFA is asserting two patents covering essentially the same technology.  The older of the two, U.S. Patent No. 6,067,525, was filed in 1995, and is described in the abstract as:

A salesforce automation system which integrates computerized intelligent automated salesperson support for multiple phases of the sales process. Various subsystems may be provided to facilitate the sales process which may include pre-sales lead generation, maximize time spent with the customer, effectively manage an order, ensure customer satisfaction, and retain the customer for future sales.

SFA has asserted this patent against retailers ranging from Talbots, Kate Spade, and New York & Co., to TigerDirect and, and from Dick’s Sporting Goods and GNC to PetSmart and Dollar Tree Stores.  The basis of SFA’s claims is that these retailers all operate e-commerce websites that display related products to a consumer when he or she selects a product of interest (essentially, the “you might also like” or “people who bought X also bought Y” functionality).  In other words, SFA is asserting that a patent from 1995 that describes a system to assist salespeople in managing lead generation and customer contact, in fact, covers present day e-commerce techniques driven by relational databases and web application software.

Unfortunately, the overbroad allegations in SFA are not unique.  SFA is reading from a standard patent troll playbook, and the Federal Circuit’s In re Staats decision will only increase the level of uncertainty in determining the scope of a patent’s claims.  In re Staats deals with a seldom used procedure for correcting errors in an issued patent that is likely about to become more common.  The Patent Act allows patentees to file a reissue application related to a patent after issuance.  If the reissue application is filed within two years of the patent’s issuance, the patentee can potentially broaden the claims of the original patent.
Continue Reading Federal Circuit Opens the Door to Misuse of Reissue Procedure by Trolls

Patent trolls took their summer vacation in July, but returned to work in August.  There was a bit of a lull toward the end of the month, but it was still active. As usual, I prepared the report in partnership with and using Docket Navigator and its powerful database. Docket Navigator is a powerful resource, and the place to go if you want to keep track of new patent litigation filings or want to know what is happening in particular cases, how your judge has historically handled a particular type of motion, or a particular plaintiff’s litigation history. Finally, please let me know if you have thoughts about the report and changes you would like to see. I am preparing it as a service for retailers and their supply chain who may want an overview of the patent litigation landscape. So, I am very open to ways to improve the report for you. SFA Systems, LLC v., Inc., (3 E.D. Texas cases)

  • Claim: Infringement
  • Defendants:
    •, Inc.
    • Buy.Com, Inc.
    • Dollar Tree, Inc.
    • Dollar Tree Stores, Inc.
    • DSW, Inc.
    • Meijer, Inc.
    • New York & Company
    • Rite Aid Corporation
    • Symantec Corporation
    • Target Corporation
    • TigerDirect, Inc.
    •, Inc.
    • Zappos Development, Inc.
    • LLC
    • Barnes & Noble, Inc.
    • Gander Mountain Company
    • Inc.
    • Newegg Inc.
    • Overton’s Inc.
    • BigMachines, Inc.
    • CareStream Health, Inc.
    • Enterasys Networks, Inc.Ricoh Americas Corporation
  • Plaintiff: SFA Systems, LLC
  • Counsel: Russ August & Kabat
  • Patent: 7,941,341
  • Comments: This is a suit based upon a newly issued patent filed against the existing entities in a prior suit accusing technology that identifies additional items a user may want to purchase based upon prior actions on a website.

Technology Innovations, LLC v., Inc., 1-11-cv-00690 (D. Del.)

  • Claim:              Infringement
  • Defendant:, Inc.
  • Plaintiff: Technology Innovations, LLC
  • Counsel: Goldstein & Lipski and Morris James
  • Patents: 5,517,407 and 7,429,965
  • Comment: Device for including enhancing information with printed information and method for electronic searching thereof

Meridian Enterprises Corporation v. Rewards Network, Inc., 4-11-cv-01377 (E.D. Mo.)

  • Claim:              Infringement
  • Defendant: Rewards Network Inc
  • Plaintiff: Meridian Enterprises Corporation
  • Counsel: Brown & James and Woodard Emhardt Moriarty McNett & Henry
  • Patent: 6,222,914
  • Comment: System and method for administration of an incentive award system having a delayed award payment using a credit instrument
    Continue Reading August 2011 Retail Patent Litigation Report