R&D Firm Sues Apple, Google, Others for Patent Infringement

Research and development lab Walker Digital filed 15 lawsuits Tuesday against more than 100 companies, including Apple, Google, Microsoft, Ebay, Facebook, Wal-mart, Groupon, Sony, and Amazon. The company is accusing the companies of patent infringement involving its portfolio of some 400 issued and pending patents.

“We are disappointed that after reaching out to so many companies in an effort to secure reasonable licenses, we were consistently told that without litigation our requests would not be taken seriously,” CEO Jon Ellenthal said in a statement.

Walker Digital differs from at least some of the patent trolls that have sued Apple in recent years in that all of its patents were developed internally and the company works to bring many of those inventions to market. Walker Digital has founded a number of startups based on its technologies, including Priceline.com, and also works other companies to commercialize its inventions.

A “patent troll,” on the other hand, is often a company that has filed for patents, or even purchased patents from other individuals or companies, that it thinks it can litigate into licensing revenue. Digital Walker’s press release makes a concerted effort to distance itself from the ranks of patent trolls.

For instance, the company stipulates that, “All of Walker Digital’s patents were created internally by invention teams at the company,” and that, “No patents have been purchased from other companies or inventors.”

The company also said that, “Filing these lawsuits is not a step we sought or preferred,” adding, “the unwillingness of those companies using our property to enter into joint commercial agreements has forced us to take an action that we had hoped to avoid.”

Another difference between Walker Digital and many of the patent trolls that The Mac Observer has covered in recent years is that the lawsuits were filed not in the US District Court for the Eastern District of Texas in Marshall, TX, a court that is known for being friendly to such suits, but rather in a federal court in Delaware.

The last such distinction is that Walker Digital is a well-funded company that can afford to take these cases to courts. The company claims $200 million in patent licensing revenue, and whatever else the company has earned through the companies it has founded (Walker Digital is privately held and thus doesn’t have to disclose the particulars of its business operations).

Walker Digital’s announcement didn’t include the specific patents it is accusing Apple and the other companies of violating.