Judge to Apple: Don't Use the Patent Troll Word

Apple is squaring off in court with GPNE Corp, a company that makes its living by licensing and litigating patents, but it can't say they're patent trolls. Federal Court Judge Lucy Koh told Apple the name is off limits because it could confuse or prejudice the jury in the patent infringement case.

Judge to Apple: Don't say Judge to Apple: Don't say "patent troll"

"Patent troll" is a term describing a company that doesn't make any products, but instead is a patent holder that uses its portfolio to generate revenue through licensing. When a company contests its licensing demands, the patent holder typically files a lawsuit to either push for an out of court settlement or to win its claim in front of a jury.

Judge Koh didn't limit her off limit words list to "patent troll." She also said Apple's legal team couldn't say "bandit," "bounty hunter," or "privateer," but did stop short of banning "scalawag."

Other terms Apple must avoid, according to Law360, include "playing the lawsuit lottery," and "shakedown."

What Apple can say is "non-practicing entity," "a company that doesn't sell anything," "a company that doesn't make anything," or "patent assertion entity."

GPNE Corp filed a lawsuit against Apple over patent 7555267, which dates back to 1996. The patent describes a system where pagers -- the antiquated little boxes we used to clip to our belts so people could send us call back numbers -- could be used for a form of two-way communication. That, the company claimed, formed the foundation Apple used to create the iPhone.

Apple isn't the only company GPNE is targeting. The patent holding company is also suing several mobile phone makers such as BlackBerry and Nokia, and is also suing Amazon. Apple decided to defend itself in court instead of rolling over and paying GPNE licensing fees.

GPNE is hoping to get a royalty payment for every iPhone Apple sells, and Apple isn't interested in having anything to do with that. From Apple's perspective, GPNE is just another patent troll non-practicing entity trying to dip into its deep pockets by asserting a vague patent.

[Some image elements courtesy Shutterstock]