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Nokia, HTC, Sony attacked by hidden megatroll

Smartphone Patent Follies, Act XVIII

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Another day, another mobile phone patent dispute — and this time the plaintiff is again SmartPhone Technologies LLC, the vaporous entity that filed a similar suit against Apple, AT&T, Research in Motion, and six other companies this March.

This most recent patent-infringement lawsuit pits SmartPhone Technologies against HTC, Exedea, Nokia, Sony Ericsson, and Kyocera. Yes, Kyocera — apparently SmartPhone Technologies is miffed about some aging patents, as well.

If you hadn't heard of SmartPhone Technologies before their March lawsuit, you're not alone. Their address, as listed in their recent suit, is 6136 Frisco Square Blvd. in Frisco, TX — just down the street from Dimples Cupcakes and GoGo Burger. Unfortunately, the list of current tenants at that address doesn't include SmartPhone Technologies, nor were any of the listed tenants of help in tracking them down.

In addition, the company should have been listed in the Frisco Business Directory, nestled between Sign-A-Rama and Snookie's Bar & Grill, but no such luck.

A hint — well, a dead giveaway — as to SmartPhone Technologies' actual identity, however, can be found in court documents relating to the March suit, which note that a "majority of its outstanding shares" are owned by Acacia Patent Acquisition LLC, which itself is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Acacia Research Corporation.

Depending up your point of view, Acacia Research Corporation is either a shrewd intellectual-property licensing firm or a patent troll. In addition to the targets of its two SmartPhone Technologies suits, the company or its subsidiaries have recently sued, settled, or signed deals with — take a deep breath — Microsoft, HP, IBM, Sony, McKesson, Hertz, Bentley Systems, Lowe's, Philips, Matsushita, Riverdeep, Heidelberg, Eastman Kodak, Teradata, Zagat, and others. Many others.

In their most recent quarterly financial filing, Acacia — a publicly traded company with a market capitalization of $865m — reported $64m in revenues, up 400 per cent year-on-year. There is, quite obviously, plenty of good money to be made in patent trolling intellectual property licensing.

This most recent Acacia-supported attack alleges that the defendents infringed upon nine separate patents, each having to do with telephony, including patents related to link arbitration, aspects of Bluetooth, data synchronization, and more. ®

Bootnote

It goes without saying that the number and breadth of mobile-telephony patent disputes is reaching epic proportions. If you're having trouble keeping all the players and all their legal wranglings straight, the Guardian offers a helpful public service: a "Who's suing who in the mobile business" flow chart, which they promise to update as the saga continues. Check it out.

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