Last December, when Nathan Myhrvold’s ginormous patent-aggregator Intellectual Ventures filed its first three patent infringement suits, it seemed as though a dam had broken. Between the time IV was founded in 2000 until last December, the company had spent hundreds of millions of dollars to acquire some 30,000 patents — but it had never filed a suit to enforce them. IV instead relied on the leverage of its vast portfolio to make licensing deals. The tech world wondered whether the December infringement suits were the first trickles of what would become a river of litigation.
They weren’t. IV quietly went back to business as usual. But on Monday Intellectual Ventures struck again, filing a new patent infringement complaint in Seattle federal court, as well as a complaint at the U.S. International Trade Commission. The new suits name Hynix and Elpida, the computer memory manufacturers, as well as computer makers that use their products (including Acer, Dell, Hewlett-Packard, and Logitech) and stores that sell them (Wal-Mart and Best Buy). IV accuses Hynix and Elpida of infringing five of its patents and inducing the other defendants to infringe. The five patents in the Seattle case do not overlap with the seven patents IV asserted against Hynix and Elpida in Delaware.
IV has added a new firm to its roster of outside counsel: The Seattle suit will be handled by Irell & Manella, as well as Seattle counsel from Black Lowe & Graham. Weil, Gotshal & Manges represents IV in its Delaware suit against Hynix and Elpida; in the other two Delaware cases, Susman Godrey and Desmarais LLP represent IV.
IV counsel Elliot Brown of Irell referred a request for comment to IV, which sent a link to its blog posting on the new actions against Hynix and Elpida. “Our goal is to reach licensing agreements,” IV chief litigation counsel Melissa Finocchio said in the post. “But when companies like Elpida and Hynix clearly infringe on our patents yet refuse to take a license, we have legal options we can use to protect our interests and those of our investors.
Hynix counsel Sean Pak of Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan and Elpida counsel George Badenoch of Kenyon & Kenyon did not respond to requests for comment.