This is the latest in the series titled "NPE Showcase," where we discuss high-volume non-practicing entities (or as some call them, "patent trolls"). This installment will focus on a company named Sockeye Licensing TX, LLC.
Sockeye owns a pair of patents broadly related to controlling a "display device" with a mobile phone. In simple terms, Sockeye claims to own the patents directed to casting video from a smart phone onto a smart TV. Sockeye has alleged its patent against both the hardware and software stacks associated with this technology.
At first glance, Sockeye appears like any other high volume NPE. They sue in the Western District of Texas, use NPE law firm Rabicoff law, and their cases typically last approximately 3-5 months with some extending longer. Sockeye has sued approximately 80 defendants since it began its patent infringement campaigns in 2015.
What makes Sockeye different is they sued a handful of defendants more than once. For example, Sockeye sued a group of electronics companies in 2015 and sued the same defendants again in 2022 with at least some of the same patents. So what happened?
Settlement agreements are typically confidential so the exact arrangement is unclear. But what we do know is Sockeye cannot sue a defendant for activity that is already licensed. Obviously, that would violate the provisions of the licensing agreement entered into by the parties as part of the settlement. It is therefore interesting that Sockeye has asserted the same patents against the same defendants in some cases.
The most logical answer is that Sockeye entered into a limited license arrangement with the settling defendants. For example, the license could be limited to certain technologies in use at the time of licensing, but not newer technologies that emerge thereafter. Or the license could be limited to existing products but not new products that are substantially different from their current versions. The possibilities are endless.
These defendants are unfortunately not alone in the world of NPE lawsuits. NPEs are also known to limit their license when suing software companies. To explain via example, granting a broad license to a commercial software company would prevent the NPE from suing the various customers that use the licensed software. This situation usually results in the software company settling out with a limited license and the NPE suing the customers of the software company thereafter. More settlements means more money—so unless the NPE can secure a large settlement with the software company, they will normally limit that license and live to fight another day against the customers of the software company.
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