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Judge says there's no such thing as a 'Patent Troll'

Apple banned from calling litigant a 'Bounty hunter', 'corporate shell' or 'Troll'

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A Californian judge has barred Apple from describing a litigant as a “patent troll”, a “bandit” or a “privateer”.

Apple is facing off with GPNE Corp, a Hawaii-based outfit that says “Our goal is to position our core patented technologies as some of the world’s most predominant MAC layer protocols.” The two have locked horns for a couple of years over a GPNE patent and, as is often the case in such matters, the litigation is stuttering along like a learner driver getting the feel of the clutch.

But a couple of weeks ago things got interesting after Judge Lucy H. Koh popped out a pretrial order that, among other things, offered guidance on the language Apple is allowed to use in the case.

Here's the order, which came to our attention thanks to Law360:

Apple may not refer to GPNE as a “patent troll,” “pirate,” “bounty hunter,” “privateer,” “bandit,” “paper patent,” “stick up,” “shakedown,” “playing the lawsuit lottery,” “corporate shell game,” or “a corporate shell.”

Apple is allowed to call GPNE a “non-practicing entity,” “licensing entity,” “patent assertion entity,” “a company that doesn’t make anything,” or “a company that doesn’t sell anything.”

Judge Koh thinks her approved vocabulary works because it “strikes the balance between allowing Apple to argue that GPNE’s status as a non-practicing entity is relevant to the calculation of reasonable royalties and to secondary considerations of non-obviousness without unduly prejudicing GPNE or confusing the jury.”

Apple was therefore prevented from using words on the naughty list during a recent pre-trial conference. The conference presumably GPNE press its case that Apple must cough up royalties for three patents it own concerning the low-level chit-chat required to send data over networks.

The matter looks like it will land in court at a future date. ®

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