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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.

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