In April and May, Walker Digital LLC filed over 20 separate patent infringement suits against more than 100 major companies. Walker Digital owns a patent portfolio of hundreds of issued patents and applications in the U.S. and other industrialized countries. The patent portfolio covers a wide range of technologies including online advertising, gaming, online auctions, mapping services, vending, credit cards, entertainment, and e-commerce.
Walker Digital LLC is a research and development company founded by Jay Walker, who is listed as lead inventor on many patents in the portfolio. He is best known for founding Priceline.com, the online travel service with a reported market value of $22 billion.
The flood of patent suits detailed below highlights how non-practising entities, known as NPEs, such as Walker Digital, are more commonly and aggressively seeking a return on their patent portfolio investments by targeting the core products of major technology companies.
In many cases, NPEs like Walker Digital are not small players but have deep pockets that rival many of the major technology companies that are defendants in these suits.
The first major wave of suits was brought on April 11, with over 10 complaints filed against more than 100 companies. One suit alleges infringement of U.S. Patent No. 6,199,014 for driving direction services by Apple’s iPhone with GPS, BMW’s Navigation Systems, Google Maps, MapQuest Inc.’s Maps and Directions, Microsoft’s Bing Maps, Samsung’s Galaxy, and others. Another suit alleges infringement of U.S. Patent No. 7,801,802 for online ad auctions by Google’s AdWords, Yahoo Inc.’s search advertising service, and Microsoft’s Advertising adCenter. A further suit alleges patent infringement by Expedia Inc., Facebook, and eBay Inc. for e-commerce services.
More recently, on May 17, Walker Digital filed a suit against Yellowpages.com, Facebook, AT&T Interactive, and Goldstar Events Inc., alleging infringement of U.S. Patent Nos. 6,249,772, 6,754,636, 7,039,603, and 7,689,468 for offering buyers products and services from retailers at discounted prices and arranging pickup at the retailers’ locations. In a separate suit filed the same day, Walker Digital alleges that Facebook infringes U.S. Patent No. 7,933,893 by its Facebook Ads services. On May 13, Walker Digital sued a number of gaming companies including Electronic Arts, Zynga, and Walt Disney, alleging infringement of U.S. Patent No. 6,527,638 for allowing users to obtain and use prepaid gaming credit rather than some form of direct payment. On April 26, Walker Digital filed a complaint alleging infringement of U.S. Patent No. 7,933,893 directed to online advertising by Google Advertising Programs, Microsoft Advertising service, Amazon.com’s targeted ads service, Yahoo Inc.’s Smart Ads service and Vibrant’s In-Text Ads service. On April 25, a complaint was filed against gaming companies alleging infringement of U.S. Patent Nos. 6,225,486 and 6,425,828 directed to multi-player electronic tournaments. The products at issue include Microsoft’s Halo 3; Electronic Arts’ FIFA Soccer 11, Madden NFL 11, and NHL 11; SEGA’s Aliens vs. Predator; Capcom’s Super Street Fighter IV; and Ubisoft’s Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood. Walker Digital also filed two complaints on April 22. One suit is against Apple and Disney, among others, for allegedly infringing U.S. Patent No. 6,263,505 for supplying supplemental information for video programs, such as photos, behind-the-scenes videos, and character information, using an Apple iPad. The other suit is against Amazon.com alleging infringement of U.S. Patent No. 5,970,470 for subscription management services by Amazon.com’s Subscribe & Save program.
These April suits are not the first filed by Walker Digital. Other ongoing cases include one suit relating to gaming technology involving Blizzard’s World of Warcraft and Zygna’s social networking games including Mafia Wars and Vampire Wars. Another suit has been filed against Capital One for customizable credit services, and yet another suit was filed against Microsoft over online functionality of Microsoft Word.