We have previously commented upon the shabby treatment accorded small, non-practicing entities (NPEs) by the courts. Well, we are now able to report that, in at least one respect, large corporations are being treated in like manner to small ones. A large corporation, seeking to enforce a patent which it does not practice, i.e. a large NPE, gets the same short shrift as a small NPE. (Pitney Bowes Inc. et al. v. Zumbox, Inc.)
Pitney sued Zumbox, alleging infringement of three patents relating to the delivery and control of e-mail messages. Zumbox filed for re-examination of the patents-in-suit and moved for a stay of the litigation pending the outcome of the re-examinations. Pitney opposed a stay, arguing that it would be prejudiced by the delay in the litigation.
Not so, said the Court in granting the stay, “delay, by itself, does not constitute prejudice.” Significantly, Pitney was not practicing the patented inventions. At oral argument, Pitney asserted it might practice the inventions in the future. The Court responded that, should this occur, Pitney could bring the matter to the Court’s attention in a motion to lift the stay.
THE LESSON TO BE LEARNED: Even large corporations can be NPEs. Is it proper to call them “big trolls”?
As more large businesses realize that IP is an asset to be bought, sold, and protected like any other, more will begin to understand that a "troll" is largely in the eye of the beholder. In fact, the appellation is starting to seem dated.