The Work

October 4, 2010 1:08 PM

John Desmarais Takes His First Shot as a Patent Owner

Posted by Zach Lowe

John_Desmarais Much was made when John Desmarais left his partnership perch at Kirkland & Ellis to start his own law firm-slash-patent licensing company on the strength of more than 4,500 patents he purchased from Micron Technology in late 2009. Desmarais, who was at Kirkland for a decade and litigated some of the highest-profile patent cases in history, rejects the so-called "troll" label and said he would not use his new patent collection for baseless litigation. 

"We're not taking the approach of having ridiculous demands and assuming there will be litigation," Desmarais (pictured here) told Bloomberg in June, when his eight-attorney law firm firm, Desmarais LLP, officially opened for business. "I think our approach will be a lot more reasonable."

But there will be litigation. On Friday, Desmarais LLP filed what appears to be the first federal lawsuit on behalf of Desmarais's patent-holding company, Round Rock Research, according to court records. The suit, filed in federal court in Delaware, accuses the mobile phone giant HTC of infringing on several Round Rock patents for memory chip technology, directory assistance capability, image chips and other smart phone gadgets. The suit says HTC has deployed the infringed upon technology in several popular products, including the Google Nexus One, the HTC HD2 smart phone and the Droid ERIS, an HTC smartphone that uses the Google Android system. Google was not named in the suit. 

The suit, which hasn't received prior media coverage, was filed the same day Microsoft sued Motorola, alleging the latter's Android phones, also run using Google technology, infringe on several Microsoft patents, Reuters reports. (Google also was not named in that suit.) Our colleague Andrew Longstreth of The Am Law Litigation Daily reminds us that Microsoft was Desmarais's main enemy during the last years of his stint at Kirkland, when he represented Alcatel-Lucent in winning a record-setting $1.52 billion patent verdict against Microsoft in 2007. That verdict was later overturned, and the two sides eventually came to a settlement, according to Longstreth and Bloomberg. 

Michael Stadnick and Alan Kellman, the lead partners on the new HTC case for Desmarais, did not immediately return messages seeking comment. 

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There is one reason that the NPE ("patent troll") business model has become increasingly popular: it works. It is also legal, and often helps protect independent inventors and SMEs from exploitation of their intellectual property by larger, more powerful entities. Notably, it is almost invariably such multinational corporations that complain most about NPEs -- because, before the latter became so prevalent, greedy corporations could more often infringe SMEs' IP with impunity. Although abuse of the system should be condemned, most so-called trolls do nothing worse than Wall Street traders, for instance. Like it or not, NPEs are here to stay. And that may be a good thing.

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