Twitter Tries To Move Patent Trial By Saying All Twitter Users Agree To Settle Legal Disputes On Twitter’s Home Turf
from the nice-try,-but-no dept
It’s no secret that patent holders suing for infringement prefer certain venues. And, many tech companies based in the Bay Area like to try to get those cases moved to a local court instead. There’s been some efforts to move cases to better locations, but thanks to some tricky games, lawyers can frequently keep the cases where they were filed.
Apparently Twitter thought that it might try some tricky lawyers’ games of its own to get one case transferred. The company tried arguing that because the patent holder, Dinesh Agarwal, who was suing them was also a Twitter user, it meant he’d agreed to Twitter’s terms of service… which state that all lawsuits against the company must be brought in San Francisco. That’s pretty clearly a tortured reading of the Terms of Service, because this lawsuit had nothing, whatsoever, to do with Agarwal’s use of the service… and the judge didn’t buy it, allowing the case to continue in Virginia, where it was filed. As the judge noted, agreeing to this “would potentially foster satellite litigation in every patent case involving a social networking market participant,” basically guaranteeing that such lawsuits could only be brought where social networking companies wanted them to be brought.
Burdlaw comment: This suit was pursuant to patent laws not Twitter service to Agarwal. First, the plaintiff was VS Technologies, which did not have a Twitter account and was not created until after Agarwal got a Twitter account, so the Judge found that VS Technologies could not have agreed to the TOS. Hard to dispute that. Second, the suit was not about Twitter’s service to Agarwal, but rather Twitter’s adoption of items covered by the VS Technologies patent. Third, if TOS trumped patent law choice of forum, a patentee suing multiple social networks would generate satellite lawsuits in each network’s TOS forum choice, rather than in one multi-defendant case in one jurisdiction before one judge, and judicial efficiency favors one case rather than an unlimited number when the issue is essentially the same. Hard to dispute that logic. Fourth, in this case the balance of convenience appeared to be either equal or favoring non-transfer. That balance is for the Court to determine, not Twitter. Fifth, Agarwal’s undisputed testimony was his Twitter account was only obtained in order to gather evidence for the suit, not to use the service. Sixth, the USDC-VA-E has a faster docket (it is one of the famous rocket docket jurisdictions for patent cases), and that was a minor factor favoring non-transfer to USDC-CA-N. Not mentioned was the real reason, which the Judge well knows, that the USDC-VA-E is much more pro-plaintiff than the USDC-CA-N so the plaintiff wants it to stay at the USDC-VA-E and Twitter, the defendant, wants it the hell out of there and into a more anti-patent forum like the USDC-CA-N. If Twitter were the patent owner and VS Technologies the defendant, Twitter would be arguing the other way, namely to keep the case there. All in all, this was a real legal stretch by Twitter, indicating desperation. Expect Twitter to try to settle this one.