2015-12-21

Even a Blind Acorn Sometimes Finds a Hog

Gilstrap pops his cherry.

The most litigious "patent troll" of 2014 has been effectively shut down, and will have to pay attorneys' fees to several defendants.

US District Judge Rodney Gilstrap, who hears more patent cases that any other federal judge, issued an order (PDF) on Thursday saying that the behavior of eDekka LLC qualified as "exceptional," and that the company should pay the legal fees of various companies it sued.

Gilstrap's courtroom is, arguably, the most surprising spot in the nation from which a patent troll slap-down might originate. The judge has been criticized by the Electronic Frontier Foundation for making life unnecessarily difficult for patent defendants. He's also invalidated relatively few patents under Supreme Court precedent set in last year's Alice Corp. case, even as other federal judges have been tossing out software patents at a steady clip.

And until this order was issued, Gilstrap had never before ordered any patent plaintiff to pay up for filing massive numbers of lawsuits, even after it became the easier to win such awards after the Octane Fitness case.

The patent boils down to basically "hashing," a concept so fundamental to computer programming, that several languages have the data structure built in (hashes in perl and dictionaries in python being two examples).   This is so obvious to a practitioner, that one generally wouldn't even think to apply for a patent in the first place.

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