We’ve had serious legal threats five times in the past, from YouTube, Marvel, Rivals, Mediascrape and my personal favorite, Richard Figueroa. None of those threats went to court because all of them were absurd, and we don’t back down under any circumstances (unless we’re in the wrong, which we never were).
But today, based on the calls I’ve received from CNET and the San Jose Mercury News, we’ve actually been sued. Earthcomber, the holder of a very shaky mobile patent, first sued Loopt last week, and yesterday added us in an amended complaint. They didn’t even bother with making nasty threats before they filed the complaint. They just sent it into the court and started making calls to the press.
I called Earthcomber President Jim Brady this morning to verify the lawsuit. At first he wouldn’t answer – all he did was try to explain how he’s been wronged by Loopt. When pressed he did confirm that the lawsuit was filed, but quickly added that he didn’t really mean to press it with us. He wants to go to court with Loopt, but is willing to quickly work something out with us to make this go away, he told me, hinting that he’d like to partner with us. He also said he’s been desperately trying to get me on the phone but hasn’t been able to, so he decided to sue us instead.
The problem with using a lawsuit as a negotiating tactic is that you can’t put the cat back in the bag. The door is open, and it has to play out. In other words, suing someone to get them to return your calls is not exactly a sign of brilliance.
I’m not going to go into a lot of detail on the specifics of the patent claims, other than that they are absurd, since our lawyers have asked me not to. But I will say this – adding TechCrunch to a lawsuit based on the fact that we are a search filter (see image to left) in a product seems a little absurd to me. I’ve asked our attorneys to spend whatever it takes to kill this lawsuit, and to find a way to counter sue this guy into the stone age.
Did Earthcomber also sue iMeem, RockTheVote and NRDC, the other filtered search options? No. Because that doesn’t get them all this free press.
We will not be bullied, and people who file frivolous lawsuits need to be put down. I would rather run TechCrunch into the ground and go out of business than let this guy win.