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Drew Curtis

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Patent-Infringement Lawsuit Against Fark Settled for Zero Dollars. Also, Patent Trolls Suck...

Posted: 08/11/11 04:13 PM ET

A lot of you were already aware that Fark was sued by a patent troll back in January. I wanted to share that as of today, after eight months of legal work, that lawsuit was dismissed.

Here's the tl;dr version:

Their patent had nothing to do with Fark. The patent troll realized we were going to fight them instead of settle, so they asked for our best offer. I said how about you get nothing and drop the lawsuit? They accepted.

/tl;dr

Normally, we wouldn't be able to talk about any of the details. Terms of patent lawsuit settlements are usually bound by ironclad nondisclosure agreements. NDAs allow patent trolls to extract maximum settlements from each entity they've filed lawsuits against -- as a result no one knows who paid what. In the last round of settlement negotiations we asked to strike the NDA provision. They agreed (and to the attorneys out there reading this, I'm as baffled as you are).

Striking the NDA was crucial because I wanted to be able to tell everyone what really happened: we didn't pay them a single dime.

The patent covered a method for inputting news releases into a web form, which would then compile the news release and email it to media outlets. Now, aside from the fact that a ton of prior art exists and that the patent should never have been awarded in the first place, Fark and all the other websites named in the lawsuit don't produce "news releases". In the world of journalism, the term "news release" is equivalent to "press release" -- the patent itself equates the two in the opening description. Could a judge have ruled otherwise? Sure. They've been known to rule that the sky is green -- which is why this lawsuit was dangerous.

As much as I'd like to fight the good fight, we reluctantly decided against pursuing a counterclaim against the patent holder. Too expensive -- as in a couple million dollars too expensive, years of legal wrangling, and no guarantee of recovering all of the spent money by the time it was over. I sincerely hope someone still in the case with deeper pockets pursues these guys. I'm happy to help in any way I can. Unfortunately, Yahoo settled a while back, and Conde Nast settled out for Reddit this week. Some big fish are still in it though; I believe they're inclined to hang in -- especially given what happened with Fark settling for nothing.

At any rate, this bullshit is finally over. It was a nightmare. Imagine someone breaking into your home, then being forced to sit on the couch while their lawyers file motions over how much stuff they can take. My wife Heather said my first draft of this post sounded too angry, probably due to the fact that every third word was an f-bomb (among other things I paraphrased our best one-time settlement offer as "how about jack sh*t and go f*ck yourself", which may be a more accurate depiction of how I really felt at the time). I won't lie though, I was angry and I am still. Too much money was wasted on this, too many sleepless nights, too many hours away from running Fark, and all this because someone else decided that suing companies for bearing a vague resemblance to their patent (patents they don't even appear to use themselves) is a good business model. We're short a full-time employee thanks to these douchebags.

I'm just glad it's over. Huge thanks to Legal Team Fark at Roetzel & Andress, who were able to quickly grasp the reasons why this patent lawsuit was bullshiat and hone those arguments into legal nightmares for the plaintiff. I can't recommend them highly enough to anyone going through a similar situation. After all, when's the last time you saw a patent lawsuit settled for zero dollars? Pretty rare.

All right that's it, let's get back to funny news. C'mon Florida, don't fail me now.