Apple has agreed to pay $ 24.9 million to a “patent troll” to end a lawsuit over its Siri voice system, according to documents filed yesterday with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Publicly traded Marathon Patent Group, whose business is focused on patent licensing and lawsuits, will split the settlement cash with Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI), the New York technical university that provided the patents.
It’s a big payment. Patent trolls, also called non-practicing entities or patent assertion entities, have lost power in recent years, due to changes in case law and new ways to challenge patents at the US Patent and Trademark Office. This recent settlement is a reminder that the era of that patent troll is far from over. And it’s a reminder that the lure of big money from patent lawsuits continues to be a tempting draw for universities.
The two asserted claims of US Patent No. 7,177,798 describe a “method for processing natural language input,” and was invented by Drs. Cheng Hsu and Veera Boonjing. At the time of invention, in 2000, Hsu was a Professor of Decision Sciences and Engineering at RPI, while Boonjing was a doctoral candidate at the institution. The patent’s first claim describes processing language queries by using databases filled with “case information, keywords, information models, and database values.” The inventors assigned it to the university, which is common, since many universities have rules requiring that faculty assign patents and dictate splits of any licensing revenues.
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