Romney, Gingrich and Santorum Named as Defendants in Patent Suit

This past Monday, EveryMD filed suit against the Republican presidential candidates for…well..using Facebook. The suit, captioned EveryMD v. Rick Santorum, Mitt Romney, and Newt Gingrich(C.D.CA) explains that U.S. Patent 7,644,122 is infringed by Facebook, and as business customers of Facebook receiving messages, that there is some type of liability on the part of the candidates. (complaint here)

The only independent claim of the ‘122 Patent recites:

A method for providing individual online presences for a each of a plurality of members of a group of members by an interface server computer comprising the steps of:

maintaining a database comprising information associated with each of said plurality of members at a database system connected to said interface server computer;

allotting individual URLS to each of said plurality of members by associating an individual URL with each individual member of said plurality of members in said database system;

associating an individual home page for each said individual member of said plurality of members with said individual URL allotted to said individual member in said database system, said individual home page comprising information from said database associated with said individual member; a first control for submitting a comment about said individual member; and a second control separate from said first control for sending a message other than said comment to said individual member;

receiving by said interface server an online request for said individual URL from a requesting source;

providing said individual home page by said interface server computer to said requesting source.

It seems likely that Facebook (in theory anyway) is the only direct infringer of the claim, curiously, no indirect infringement theory is pled relative to the defendants named in the complaint. Thus, the complaint is almost certainly to be dismissed.

It is also worth noting that Facebook sought reexamination of the ‘122 Patent, in 2010. Currently, all claims currently stand rejected at the USPTO. Oral argument at the Board of Patent Appeals & Interferences (BPAI) will likely occur in the next few months. (95/001,411). Thus, even if the case were to somehow go forward, it would almost certainly be stayed due to the late stage of the reexamination. So, aside from costing the candidates some nominal legal fees, this filing seems to be more of a public relations exercise.

Perhaps a more interesting (although academic) question is whether the ‘122 Patent, entitled “Method, Apparatus and Business System. . .” claims enough of a “technological invention” to avoid Post Grant Review eligibility under the new Transitional Program for Covered Business Method Patents.