A federal judge in California has ruled in favor of the Electronic Frontier Foundation after the organization was recently sued over its “Stupid Patent of the Month” blog posts. As a result, the advocacy group is not required to remove a recent post simply because an Australian patent entity (often called “trolls”) doesn’t like it.
The case began back in April 2017 when EFF countersued an Australian company that it previously dubbed as a “classic patent troll” in a June 2016 blog post entitled: “Stupid Patent of the Month: Storage Cabinets on a Computer.”
In 2016, that company, Global Equity Management (SA) Pty. Ltd. (GEMSA), managed to get an Australian court to order EFF to remove its post—but EFF did not comply. In January 2017, Pasha Mehr, an attorney representing GEMSA, further demanded that the article be removed and that EFF pay $750,000. EFF still left the post up and then sued regarding the Australian court’s injunction.The EFF’s April 2017 lawsuit asked an American court to declare the Australian ruling unenforceable in the US because the Australian ruling runs afoul of free speech protections granted under the United States Constitution (namely, that opinions are protected).
In this recent ruling granting default judgment in favor of EFF, US District Judge Jon Tigar agreed with that assessment. The judge found that EFF’s rhetoric declaring GEMSA’s patent to be “stupid” is an opinion protected by Constitution of the United States.
“In short, not one of the alleged defamatory statements would be defamatory under California law,” he wrote in a November 17 ruling. “EFF would not have been found liable for defamation under US and California law.”
As the EFF noted in a new blog post, GEMSA had until May 23 to formally respond to the lawsuit.
“That day came and went without a word,” the EFF’s Kurt Opsahl wrote. “While GEMSA knows its way around US courts—having filed dozens of lawsuits against big tech companies claiming patent infringement—it failed to respond to ours.”
The EFF’s Stupid Patent of the Month campaign began way back in August of 2014 with a post on a patent for “a doctor’s computer-secretary.” The series has since highlighted patents covering everything from “out of office e-mail” to a patient monitoring system depicted in Deep Space Nine.
Mehr, the Australian attorney representing GEMSA, did not immediately respond to Ars’ request for comment. Since the EFF sued GEMSA, the Australian company has not filed any new lawsuits in US federal courts.