Soverain Software, a “patent troll” with no significant revenue aside from patent lawsuits, made millions suing dozens of online retailers over a group of e-commerce patents, including one that essentially claimed an online shopping cart. Soverain’s money train got stopped cold when Newegg destroyed its patents on appeal in 2013.
Soverain, its lawyers, and its anonymous owners have had an extremely hard time realizing they lost. First, the company litigated for another seven months over, essentially, a typo in the Newegg ruling. The company asked for the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit to reconsider its case en banc, but to no avail. Then it hired expensive Supreme Court specialists to write its petition to be heard by the high court, but that went nowhere, as well.
Even then, Soverain didn’t seem to understand that it wouldn’t be able to collect its nearly $18 million jury verdict against Avon and Victoria’s Secret, even though that case was based on the exact same patent claims as the Newegg case. Soverain went ahead and fought the appeal, despite really having nothing new to say.
“Soverain has not identified any significant new arguments that were not in fact raised in the earlier appeal,” a panel of appeals judges wrote in February, handing Soverain yet another loss.
One last try, in a familiar court
Soverain had a long list of retailers it intended to get royalty payments from after Newegg, and filed one last wave of lawsuits in March 2012. However, those cases were put on “hold” once Newegg beat the patents on appeal, while Soverain pulled out all the stops trying to revive them.
This week’s ruling marks the end of the cases that were filed in March 2012. Of the many defendants, only Macy’s and eBay “fought” to the end.
Its appetite for courtroom losses apparently still not satiated, Soverain decided to press ahead against those last two. It told US District Judge Leonard Davis that while it “no longer asserts” 27 out of the 33 patent claims it had initially brought, but insisted that those last six patent claims were “not affected by the Newegg decision.”
Perhaps Soverain thought it stood a chance, since Davis’ court is where it won its initial jury victories years ago. Davis, whose East Texas court has been one of the most popular in the country for patent owners, was the judge who allowed the “shopping cart” patent to go to a jury in the first place.
However, if Soverain wanted to indulge the fantasy that its last six claims held some kind of magical hidden breakthrough, Davis declined to participate. The judge invalidated the claims in an order (PDF) issued earlier this week.
All six claims were “dependent” claims, relying on either claim 34 or claim 39 of patent number 5,715,314—both of which had been found obvious by the Federal Circuit.
The last six claims add tiny limitations to the already-invalidated patent claims. Two claims, for instance, talked about a system in which the “shopping cart computer” would send a “payment message” after the “buyer computer” told it to do so.
“[T]his Court must accept, and the parties do not dispute, the Federal Circuit‟s determination that Soverain‟s previously asserted claims are invalid,” Davis wrote.
Soverain wanted the case to at least go through a claim construction proceeding, but Davis found there was no reason for that to happen, and such a proceeding would “waste party and judicial resources.”
No matter how the last six claims are looked at, “it is clear that they do not add meaningful limitations that distinguish them from claims previously held invalid as a matter of law,” he wrote.
A Soverain spokesperson didn’t respond to Ars’ request for comment.
“We are pleased to have vindicated another innocent retailer targeted by Soverain and its invalid patents,” said Macy’s lawyer Kent Baldauf, who also represented Newegg at trial. “It took courage for Macy’s to stand up to a baseless case and defend itself to the end.”
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