A judge in Delaware’s federal District Court has put the brakes on a patent troll’s carpetbombing of the radio industry. For those just tuning in, some ambiguous firms in Delaware acquired some old AT&T patents that vaguely describe digital data transmission. Armed with these, the firms filed a slew of lawsuits in 2013 against broadcasters who’ve deployed HD Radio technology, claiminng that the system infringes on their intellectual property.
iBiquity Digital Corporation, HD’s proprietor, filed a counterclaim last year seeking the dismissal of the trolls’ crusade and the voiding of its patent claims. If the trolls want to bilk anybody, iBiquity is the logical target, as it controls all of its intellectual property with a firm hand. Furthermore, the station’s license agreement with broadcasters indemnifies stations against such claims.
The trolls responded by disputing that such a clause existed, so iBiquity provided several exhibits of company documentation relating to its licensing practices (all of which have been redacted or sealed.
In a three-page ruling issued earlier this month, judge Gregory Sleet stayed and consolidated the trolls’ suits against 14 broadcasters, basically giving iBquity’s challenge top priority. After all, it is HD Radio itself, not the mere use of it, that “is precisely at issue” in all the claims, he wrote, and addressing iBiquity’s claims first will have a direct bearing on the trolls’ fishing expedition.
This is good news for HD Radio and those who use it, and suggests that while the trolls will try to hold out as long as they can for a quick buck, the court is predisposed to cut ’em off at the knees. No schedule yet for further briefs or arguments in iBiquity’s counterclaim.