GeoTag Patent Claims Get Green Light, Again
Suing more than 400 companies for patent infringement poses logistical difficulties. So when it came time for the uber-litigious nonpracticing entity GeoTag Inc. to explain its infringement theory for each and every one of its targets, it used plenty of boilerplate language. That approach didn't sit well with GeoTag's targets, but it's won the blessing of two different judges in the Eastern District of Texas.
In a three-page order issued Friday, U.S. Magistrate Judge Roy Payne found that GeoTag's infringement contentions were sufficiently detailed. The ruling applies to two patent infringement lawsuits GeoTag brought against a handful of companies that include a "store locator" feature on their websites. It comes just a month after Payne's colleague on the East Texas federal bench, Rodney Gilstrap, issued an identical decision in a much larger group of GeoTag cases.
GeoTag holds a patent on, well, "GeoTagging," the now-common practice of matching online metadata to geographic locations. Between 2010 and 2012, GeoTag brought at least 18 lawsuits in the Eastern District of Texas against companies that have online store locators. All told, there are roughly 400 defendants. The cases were consolidated before U.S. District Judge Michael Schneider in March 2012. As a result of a docket reallocation in January 2013, Schneider reassigned most of the cases to Gilstrap.
In every patent case, the plaintiff is required to reveal its basic infringement theory for each defendant. All 400 GeoTag defendants backed a joint motion to strike in November 2012, arguing that GeoTag's infringement contentions were woefully inadequate and substantially similar for each defendant, despite clear differences in how their online store locators operate. GeoTag's lawyers called that assertion a "red herring," arguing that "because of the similarities of the accused instrumentalities, the infringement contentions for similarly accused instrumentalities do have similarities."
Gilstrap denied the request in August, and Payne has now followed suit with the remaining cases still assigned to Schneider. Payne didn't explain his reasoning in Friday's order, simply stating that "the alleged deficiencies in GeoTag's infringement contentions do not rise to the level that mandate striking them."
Payne and Gilstrap's rulings aren't game-changers. If the defendants had prevailed on their motion to strike, GeoTag and its many law firms would likely have been allowed to amend their infringement contentions and press on with their litigation onslaught. But they would have been forced to invest additional time and energy into the case. And the defendants would have gleaned insights into GeoTag's theories.
David Bennett of Direction IP Law, one of GeoTag's lawyers, declined to comment.