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Patents Australia Electronic Frontier Foundation The Courts United States

EFF Beats 'Stupid' Patent Troll In Court (courthousenews.com) 70

An Australian court can't make a California advocacy group take down a web page, a U.S. federal judge just ruled on Friday. Even if that web page calls a company's patents "stupid." Courthouse News reports: San Francisco-based Electronic Frontier Foundation sued Global Equity Management, or GEMSA, in April, claiming the Australian firm exploited its home country's weaker free speech protections to secure an unconstitutional injunction against EFF. Kurt Opsahl, EFF's deputy executive director and general counsel, hailed the ruling as a victory for free speech. "We knew all along the speech was protected by the First Amendment," Opsahl said in a phone interview Friday. "We were pleased to see the court agree." Opsahl said the ruling sends a strong message EFF and other speakers can weigh in on important topics, like patent reform, without fear of being muzzled by foreign court orders.

The dispute stems from an article EFF published in June 2016, featuring GEMSA in its "Stupid Patent of the Month" series. The GEMSA patent is for a "virtual cabinet" to store data. In the article, EFF staff attorney Daniel Nazer called GEMSA a "classic patent troll" that uses its patent on graphic representations of data storage to sue "just about anyone who runs a website." The article also says GEMSA "appears to have no business other than patent litigation."

The judge granted EFF a default judgment, saying the Australian court's injunction was not only unenforceable in the United States but also "repugnant" to the U. S. Constitution.
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EFF Beats 'Stupid' Patent Troll In Court

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  • Gotta wonder, (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jenningsthecat ( 1525947 ) on Saturday November 18, 2017 @01:39PM (#55577431)

    if the outcome would have been the same had the firm in question been American rather than Australian. I have the impression that US courts are much more likely to condemn such overreaches when they are foreign than when they are domestic.

    • Re: Gotta wonder, (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Apples to oranges. This was all about telling a foreign country to shove their court orders that try to tell Americans what they can and cannot do in the US.

      • Re: Gotta wonder, (Score:5, Informative)

        by sabri ( 584428 ) on Saturday November 18, 2017 @02:13PM (#55577545)

        This was all about telling a foreign country to shove their court orders that try to tell Americans what they can and cannot do in the US.

        The most important part of this ruling is this:

        The judge granted EFF a default judgment, saying the Australian court's injunction was "repugnant" to the U. S. Constitution.

        The term "repugnant" was not chosen arbitrarily. It's a legal term used when litigators attempt to "domesticate" a foreign judgement in the U.S. This is a process where a U.S. court will recognize a foreign court's judgement as equal to and enforceable in the U.S. California law says:

        a court in California is not required to recognize a foreign-country judgment if any of the following apply:

        (3) The judgment of the cause of action or claim for relief upon which the judgment is based is repugnant to the public policy of the State of California or the United States.

        In other words: while this judgement was delivered by a federal judge, no California court will recognize any Australian's court award of monetary damages based on this verdict.

        • And if a California judge wishes to indicate a particular judgement should not be considered legal precedent, they are required to use the phrase "stinks like Ishtar".

        • Google got a US judgement that they need not obey a Canadian Supreme Court order (a temporary restraining order), but it wasn't about free speech, just commecial speech, by which they meant advertisements for stolen hardware designs.

          They would have been far happier if the Canadian case was the <expletive deleted> pile of crap the Australian one was.

    • by pedz ( 4127433 )

      There is no "I" in "Borg".

      Not uhh..!!! not by the time Apple gets done with it: iBorg

  • by WCMI92 ( 592436 ) on Saturday November 18, 2017 @02:44PM (#55577647) Homepage

    There needs to be much more of that. Lawsuits like this shouldnâ(TM)t be brought and the way to discourage them is to take away the milk.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Please, if we started disbarring lawyers for bad conduct, there wouldn't be a single one of them left.

      I mean, PLEASE, let's start disbarring lawyers for bad conduct, until there isn't a single one of them left.

  • That a company in one nation can even utilize the laws of another country against a company residing within it is just wrong. This is everything wrong with globalism. It's bad enough having multiple states where someone across the country can have a say in anything impacting your life, but across national boundaries is just beyond corrupt.
    • Well, jurisdiction is normally a good idea. If I reside in the EU and hack your computer, it is actually helpful that you can go to your own countries legal system and get redress, instead of having to go abroad for justice. Vice versa, noone would be able to afford justice in the USA if they don't live there, so it also prevents inhabitants of rich countries from abusing those of poorer countries. Well, not if the gap is too big, but if the gap is not that big you're going to be able to get justice somewhe

  • From GEMSA's cease and desist letter [documentcloud.org] "... to write you in relation to the defamatory, false and malicious slander which you and Electronic Frontier Foundation made concerning our client..."

    There really can only be one response:
    "I resent that! Slander is spoken. In print, it's libel." [wikipedia.org]

    (In passing, I find it curious that they say "to write you" rather than "to write to you". Previously I've only seen the former construction from Americans, but this is an Australian law firm.)

  • by manu0601 ( 2221348 ) on Saturday November 18, 2017 @08:09PM (#55578757)
    US could follow the same approach of this ruling, and stop issuing fines for businesses that broke US law outside of US.
  • Virtual disk/containers/whatever have been around for a long time; almost certainly before this damned company even existed. (It's hard to describe the intensity of the hate I have for companies like this.)

    We used to manage/store datasets in virtual disks (mounting them in a way akin to using Linux's loopback device) on RSX-11 fer gawd's sake.

  • This is a funny outcome, as the US courts think they have any jurisdiction over other countries by doing exactly the same as the Australian court. So with this outcome, it also nullifies any US court decision on any other countries judgement.

"...a most excellent barbarian ... Genghis Kahn!" -- _Bill And Ted's Excellent Adventure_

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