Patent Troll Update: Another One Bites the Dust

Patent Troll (Not to Scale)

Patent Troll (Not to Scale)

It’s been a while since WC excoriated a patent troll.

There’s a company in East Texas – the jurisdiction famously most friendly to patent trolls – called eDekka, LLC. eDekka has exactly one asset: US Patent No. 6,266,674. The ‘674 patent was filed in 1992, and it was granted to a man named Donald Hejna in 2001. He assigned it to eDekka. The patent abstract describes “a method and apparatus for storing information wherein a user defines labels which relate to the stored information and the user defines a data structure, for example, a hierarchical structure, comprised of such labels and method and apparatus for retrieving the stored information wherein the user randomly accesses the information utilizing the labels and the structure.”

That’s a description of a random-access database. Random-access databases have been around since at least 1974, when the basic algorithms were developed by C. J. Date. It’s outrageous that some sham “inventor” asserted a patent to the techniques. But that didn’t stop eDekka from filing a staggering 168 patent lawsuits, and doubtlessly shaking down dozens of others behind nondisclosure agreements.

But apparently the ‘674 patent was too much even for the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas. U.S. District Judge Rodney Gilstrap pitched all 168 cases out, holding “The Court finds that no inventive concept exists to transform the claimed abstract idea into a patent-eligible concept.”

Judge Gilstrap didn’t stop there. For the first time, he awarded the 168 defendants attorneys’ fees. A total of more than $390,000.

These patent trolls are a bit like cockroaches. Hard to kill and more of them always seem to crawl out of the walls. But there are 168 fewer cases than there used to be. It’s a start.


One thought on “Patent Troll Update: Another One Bites the Dust

  1. A nice article on a subject near and dear to my heart. Sadly, eDekka’s patent is only marginally worse than most software patents I’ve seen, so the fact that it is almost unique in being thrown out and sanctioned is a miscarriage of justice.

    Incidentally, the concept of a database predates the work of Chris Date. The theoretical foundation for the original relational database was proposed by E. F. Codd in 1969. Chris Date was a member of Codd’s research team at IBM, who later went on to a significant role as an evangelist for relational technology.

    The “relational model” for database architecture is still the dominant paradigm today, but various non-relational approaches predate even Codd’s work. Among others, IBM’s IMS database system was first created in 1966 and released in 1968. Codd’s work was in reaction to limitations he observed in IMS and other “hierarchical” systems of the day. Despite its half century age, IMS is hardly consigned to the dustbin of history, as it is used today by many financial institutions for transaction processing such as checking account maintenance and credit card payments. Conventional wisdom says that most of the world’s money is held in IMS.

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