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PublishedApril 4, 2024

Tackling Patent Trolls In Foxboro

A new lawsuit in Massachusetts proves that even NFL teams are not safe from baseless accusations from patent trolls. While the New England Patriots are usually concerned with defending their home turf at Gillette Stadium, this March they had to defend the Stadium itself against claims that its Wi-Fi communications systems infringed on patented technology. 

This was the allegation being made by Arena IP LLC, a non-practicing entity that has gone after other professional football teams, including the Vikings and 49ers, for purported patent infringement. At issue was Arena IP’s patent for “self-contained data communication system nodes,” a supposedly novel way of embedding wireless technology in stadiums to boost network connectivity for the thousands of fans who use their phones while attending sporting events. 

Fortunately, the allegation leveled by this troll has already been dismissed, as Arena IP was unable to prove its patent is specific enough to be infringed upon. Ever since the 2014 Supreme Court’s Alice decision, the test for establishing a “patent-ineligible concept” is first determining if the concept is itself an “abstract idea.” By Arena IP’s own admission, however, their patent does not cover any actual technological innovations, but rather, a way of implementing existing technologies, which lacks any technical specification regarding the method of implementation.  

At a dismissal hearing in mid-March, Judge Myong Joun of the U.S. District Court of Massachusetts saw through the vague claims. Joun noted that he was “having a little bit of difficulty wrapping [his] head around what it is that [Arena IP LLC] invented,” comparing the troll’s case to saying you invented time travel without “describing exactly how to accomplish that.” 

What’s more, the lawyer representing Arena IP is William Ramey III. As I discussed on Patent Progress in January, Ramey frequently represents non-practicing entity plaintiffs and has been involved in a payment dispute with a litigation funder, resulting in him withdrawing from more than 60 cases. 

The Patriots’ win might not have happened if a pair of senators get their way, though. If the Patent Eligibility Restoration Act passes, then patents on abstract ideas like this one will continue to be used against teams ranging from the New England Patriots to the small business team with the next new innovation. Arena’s lawsuit is one more example showing that no one is safe from being targeted by patent trolls’ serial, meritless accusations. Even when you win on Sunday, you might face the lose-lose prospect of wasting time and resources defending yourself in court on Monday.

Josh Landau

Patent Counsel, CCIA

Joshua Landau is the Patent Counsel at the Computer & Communications Industry Association (CCIA), where he represents and advises the association regarding patent issues.  Mr. Landau joined CCIA from WilmerHale in 2017, where he represented clients in patent litigation, counseling, and prosecution, including trials in both district courts and before the PTAB.

Prior to his time at WilmerHale, Mr. Landau was a Legal Fellow on Senator Al Franken’s Judiciary staff, focusing on privacy and technology issues.  Mr. Landau received his J.D. from Georgetown University Law Center and his B.S.E.E. from the University of Michigan.  Before law school, he spent several years as an automotive engineer, during which time he co-invented technology leading to U.S. Patent No. 6,934,140.

Follow @PatentJosh on Twitter.

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