Patent trolls are thorns in the sides of most technology companies. Major players like Apple, Amazon, Samsung and Google can either pay the trolls or open their coffers to fight frivolous lawsuits. Either way, the troll problem drains precious resources from these businesses. So what is a tech giant to do when it’s bullied by a troll?
The first step, perhaps, is to go on the offensive. That’s exactly what Google earlier this year, when it won a jury trial against non-practicing entity Beneficial Innovations (BI), which had sued dozens of media companies over patents for online ad technology.
Google’s lawyers saw this as a breach of contract, claiming the tech giant had already paid for a license and that BI was going after companies that were using Google’s Doubleclick service. In the end, Google was victorious in the suit, though theirs was a victory in name only, as it received only a single dollar in the settlement.
But Google was not satisfied with an award that would only allow it to buy a four-piece of Chicken McNuggets. Instead, it went for the proverbial jugular, seeking reimbursement for attorney’s fees.
This practice, also known as fee shifting, was a hot topic on Capitol Hill, as many members of Congress – and many businesses – wanted it to be a key component of any new patent reform. While Congress did not pass any patent reform legislation this year, the practice of fee shifting was the focus of the recent Octane Fitness v. Icon HealthSupreme Court decision.
Now, U.S. District Judge Rodney Gilstrap has awarded Google $1.3 million in attorney’s fees. That does not amount to much when considering the deep coffers of the tech giant, but it is a significant hit for BI as well as a signal that judges are now more likely to give these awards, which could act as a deterrent to future patent troll litigation.