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I just got sued for patent infringement for operating the voo2do.com todo list (techcrunch.com)
85 points by shimon on July 17, 2008 | hide | past | favorite | 45 comments


1) Talk to others who got sued, form a single group, hire a lawyer, and fight like hell

2) Talk to others who got sued, and as a group, talk to Amazon and all the other who are big and did not get sued, and cooperate to get a declaratory judgment with the "sponsorship" of the big fish that did not get sued.

This is all about grabbing the low-hanging fruit to go after the people than can defend themselves well. The natural defense is to undo that advantage of the plaintiff.

Everyone knows it's a bogus patent, don't be foolish enough to fall for the trick. Unite.

Any and all nerds, geeks, and IT professionals:

Channel Intelligence, its directors, high ranking employees and investors are at this time placed on the Information Technology No Fly List. Please do not sell this company or these individuals any form of information technology service.

This includes web hosting, network support, system administration, and even PC repair.

I also urge taxi drivers to drive right by them in the rain and small children to make faces at them in public.

No doubt their mothers are hamsters and their fathers smell of elderberries.

In case you don't wish to scroll through all the TC comments, this might be pertinent:

"I’m the Zlio.com CEO. If you are one of the sued companies (like us), please contact me by email: channel at berrebi.org.

We need to discuss together"

# The above is not from me, just quoted from the TC comments!

Have you been served yet? You will want a lawyer right away, since the time allowed to respond starts ticking at service.

Where are you incorporated, if at all? If you are not incorporated in Delaware, do you have customers in Delaware? If not, did you advertise for customers in Delaware?

I read the filing. The person that filed it is really stretching to get Delaware as the place for all the suits. I don't think that many of these companies will be forced to litigate in Delaware. You are included in that assessment.

I am not a lawyer, but I am a second year law student. If you want more information, post here or feel free to send me an email. I relatively near you in Mass, too.

I got a "courtesy copy" of the complaint this morning (via overnight Fedex). Does that count as service?

I'm not incorporated and haven't thought about Delaware in particular as a place to advertise Voo2do. There are certainly Voo2do users in Delaware (and in most other places in the world).

The only income I've received to date from Voo2do has been donations from people who found it useful. If you consider the cost of the hosting, Voo2do has been a net money loser for me for many years. But it's led to a lot of other great contacts and given me a lot of satisfaction from helping other people.

You should stop talking in public about this case. Anything you say can be used against you by them. Talk to other defendants but most importantly, find a lawyer and talk to them first.

PS: Ask pg to delete your post.

That probably does not count as service. Service of process is governed by Rule 4 of Civil Procedure (in Mass and at the Federal Level). The overnight likely does not meet requirements of either Mass state or federal rules of civil procedure.

Mass. Rule 4: http://www.lawlib.state.ma.us/mrcp4.html Federal Rule 4: http://www.law.cornell.edu/rules/frcp/Rule4.htm

Did you receive a summons or was it just a printout of what we saw in the TC article? Insufficient service is grounds for dismissal. The plaintiff has time to correct, though.

You should see if there are any users in Delaware. If not, I doubt you can be compelled to court there. Even if you do have users in Delaware, it is a stretch.

For everyone on YC News, this is a reason to incorporate in your home state, not Delaware. Incorporate in Delaware if you want VC funding. Otherwise, stay in your home state. If you incorporate in Delaware, or any other state for that matter, courts automatically grant personal jurisdiction in that state. Basically, that means you have to go to court there.

This is also a reason to incorporate. Right now shimon is personally liable for damages, if any.

In retrospect, any limitation on potential liability would be nice. But I didn't originally set out to make Voo2do into a business -- the only way I get money for it at present is through donations. Are you saying anyone who wants to build and offer a web application should form an umbrella corporation for that? What about non-web software? Where do you draw the line between "personal experimental project" and "entity that needs a state-sanctioned organization around it"?

"Personal experimental project" is just that. Only you use it. Once you let an outside person use it you have distributed in the eyes of the law. You are open to suit and are no longer within safe harbors of personal use.

If you are making something for others to use, incorporate. It will cost you a few hundred dollars per year in filing fees, but that is just a type of insurance against times like this.

I really hate hearing about jerks like this...

there's something that can help us fight patent trolling: http://www.peertopatent.org/

It's a USPTO pilot project that let's the public review and give feedback to some current patent applications. I'm sure this will help cut some bogus patent claims if people just participate.

I was relieved to see this in the comments...

"Michael Arrington - July 17th, 2008 at 2:33 am PDT I think literacy needs to become a requirement to get a job at the PTO. Morons."

Well that would rule out Arrington from working there...

(Sorry, I could not resist)

Ask YC subtopic: Have you ever been the target of a frivolous IP lawsuit? How do you deal with it?

Shimon, sorry to hear this. As soon as you find a good lawyer, I wouldn't worry about it psychologically. This "patent" is total bullshit; the absence of big players such as eBay and Amazon leads me to believe that they are going after easier targets in order to establish a legal precedence so that they may go after the big guys later.

You're also in good company. I would take pride in that at the very least.


Spent about $1M.

It's a great way to put a small competitor out of business.

Alain - fairsoftware.net

Another subtopic: What's CI's potential return on investment in this round of lawsuits? What is the cost of filing a patent? What is the cost of bringing a patent lawsuit? What percentage of small companies settle? And for how much?

I look at a company like Remember The Milk and wonder how much they could possibly afford to pay. A quick back of the envelope calculation based on compete.com, 170k visitors/month. Let's say that 80k are customers and 8k are paying customers ($25/year), and that their yearly revenue is $200k. They have three or four full time people and increasing traffic.

I guess a company like that could afford to pay $10-20k/annual for a license. That might even be considered a good business decision given that with their current revenue they probably don't have a lot of money in the bank to fight a legal battle now, but that with their growth they have future profits that should make this a minor annoyance.

A patent is much more valuable if it's upheld in court. I thought that was the idea behind patent trolling: get a bullshit patent, go after a bunch of little guys, try some kind of divide and conquer strategy with them, hope you win and get your bullshit patent upheld. Your patent is now much stronger and more dangerous. Congratulations, you're a litigious douchebag.

I just hope to high heaven that we see more responses like the following:


His response makes me want to get a law degree.

Amazing! They are messing with the wrong guy.

So these lawsuits are still part of the investment in douchebaggery and the return comes later. Interesting.

One possibility, and this is just speculation, and I am not a lawyer, is that CI is targeting a number of small players in the hope that we will settle or lose, thereby providing some precedent that their patent has succeeded in litigation. They could then point at our pile of bodies when threatening companies that actually have money.

Exactly. A key issue in trials is what facts can be re-litigated at later trials.

If you and/or the other defendants don't litigate the validity of the patent well and lose that issue, future parties are barred from re-litigating that issue.

A strategy of a small guy is to try and bring in a large guy to litigate an issue that will be very important to them in the future (i.e. eBay, Amazon, or whoever else may be infringing the patent).

I'd say that sounds like accurate speculation, but IANAL.

a friend of mine has a site on that list. perhaps there's a way you can all band together and use a single attorney. plus the eff is a great resource.

i'm sure amazon will want to help somehow as they most certainly have prior art. and didn't they set up a website years ago to help people discover prior art?

Contact Amazon/eBay, I'm sure they will help you guys out. If you loose, they are next with even less to stand on. Giving you free legal support could help them later down the line!

If the concept of a letter sent to Santa Claus via your parents doesn't provide sufficient obviousness for the whole concept (and if you can't get Amazon into the discussion), then work with your lawyers to seek out (older) Santa Claus web sites, or older wedding registry web sites.

This looks like potential Prior Art:


Sorry to hear this. Though I've never used voo2do extensively, it seemed pretty decent. Anyways, see if you can all get together and get the EFF guys involved. Check http://w2.eff.org/patent/ and http://w2.eff.org/patent/wp.php for more info on this.

Ack! Best of luck deflecting the lawsuit. Hopefully it won't be too hard, as there are so many other defendants. Lawsuits like this make me glad I'm a law student, so I can graduate and fight against them.

voo2do is a great service; I used it quite extensively two years ago.

Thanks, man! I don't think they can win a royalty on kind words, which has been my biggest payoff from Voo2do.

This is off the topic, but please keep passwords encrypted.


I don't blame the patent guys for not reading it. "Man, that sentence said "said" like 487 million times! Pass that thing on, dude."

Stamp of approval here.

I've been wondering lately why lawyers and politicians write in the indecipherable manner that they do. Is it really that difficult to write unambiguously in English, or are they just doing it for job security?

They way they write is actually a protocol like html. Many on the words used are magic and have special meaning in a legal context.

That being said, the legal system most likely has grown purposely obtuse over the years. They do, in fact, collect some of the highest rates per hour of nearly any profession to argue about what the definition of "is" is.

Check out: http://wishlist.com.au/ (it's almost 10 years old)

That's one of the reasons why I wouldn't move to the US and start a business. I think a software company really have only two choices.

1. Ignore patents completely and hope for the best.


2. Have trouble sleeping, knowing that you might have to spend a large amount of money on a lawsuit that you will probably win anyway.

IANAL but i think non-US startups are also targets for patent lawsuits if they have US users. And many startups have little chance of success if they have to stop serving US users.

Indeed. RIM and Desire2Learn (both Canadian) have both been hit in the last few years with seemingly frivolous claims by litigious US companies. Apparently, it cost RIM some $612 million to settle with a patent troll [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/NTP,_Inc. (edit: copy and paste, clicking won't work)]. I don't remember what came of the D2L case, but I think it cost them quite a bit as well.

American companies can try all they want to sue me under US laws. It will be really fun to watch them get squashed by the local legal system reminding them US law has no standing here.

BTW, I live in Brazil where software patents are not considered valid.

Oops... Hit reply too early.

But the above US companies could try to sue US residents for the patent violation.

It appears you are correct: In this particular lawsuit, Remember The Milk is named. They are located in Australia.

Does that mean you have reached some level of success, at least in visibility to attract it? Can that help at all in terms of general business or investment (should you need it) ?

File or threaten to file a counter-suit for abuse of process.

It should not be too hard to find prior art on this idea and invalidate the patent. But don't go it alone.

And I agree: stop talking in public about it right away.

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