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Video: How Justus Decher Beat a Patent Troll, With Help From Alice

February 2, 2019 In Design News,Digital Freedom
Video: How Justus Decher Beat a Patent Troll, With Help From Alice
Justus Decher’s telehealth company hadn’t yet made a dime of revenue when it was hit with a patent troll demand letter. Ultimately, the entity threatening him, MyHealth, offered a deal—if Decher paid $25,000 right away, he could avoid a patent lawsuit. 
It felt like “extortion” to Decher. “They were asking me for money that they did not deserve,” he told us. MyHealth had a patent filled with diagrams of doctors, computers, and communication lines, as well as a broad description of “remote patient monitoring.” Decher, on the other hand, had sunk years of work and money into actually creating a working system.
Decher was saved from expensive litigation when a judge in a different case analyzed MyHealth’s patent according to the rules set forth by the Supreme Court in the Alice v. CLS Bank decision. The patent was promptly thrown out, and thanks to Alice, Decher could get back to business.
We interviewed Decher about his experience facing off with a patent troll, and have made the video part of our Saved by Alice project. Saved by Alice highlights small businesses that rely on the Alice decision to fight back against patent troll extortion.
Entrepreneurs Tell USPTO Director Iancu: Patent Trolls Aren’t Just “Monster Stories”
Patent trolls aren’t a myth, or a bedtime story. Many software developers will know someone who has been sued or otherwise threatened by one, if they haven’t been themselves.
Rather than try to get the patent system back in balance, the new director of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, Andre Iancu, has chosen to deny that trolls even exist. Iancu even went to East Texas, the heart of the patent troll problem, where he gave a speech to lawyers and judges calling accounts of patent trolling “scary monster stories.”
Iancu isn’t listening to the stories of small businesses hit by patent demands week after week—but at EFF, we are. Last week, two dozen small and medium-sized businesses sent a letter to Iancu telling him that patent trolls remain a real threat to U.S. businesses. The letter explains the harm, cost, and stress that patent trolls cause.   
These voices are going to be more important than ever, with lobbyists for patent trolls and big patent licensors now pushing Congress to change patent law in exactly the wrong way. It starts with voices willing to stand up and say a problem exists.
Federal Court Orders That Patent Troll Can’t Hide Its Machinations
The business of patent trolling is a secretive one. Often, patent trolling businesses are set up behind a maze of shell companies. This allows patent trolls to confuse their targets, who often don’t even know who owns the patents being asserted against them. It also allows trolls to hide their assets, and sometimes avoid court-ordered sanctions. 
Even though secrecy has become normalized in patent troll cases, that’s not how it should be. In a California case involving prolific patent troll Uniloc, EFF has filed a motion to intervene, insisting that Uniloc unseal key documents about how it does business.  
The judge in this case has agreed that Uniloc improperly sought to keep documents secret. Uniloc is now fighting that ruling, and EFF will defend it.
Efforts like these are vital, because Uniloc has sued hundreds of technology companies demanding payments. The public has a right to know exactly what patent trolls like Uniloc claim they “own.”
Patents are government-granted rights meant to benefit everyone. EFF will keep fighting to make sure that patent trolls can’t do their business in secret.
Announcements
Refiguring the Future Exhibition 
Eyebeama local organization in the Electronic Frontier Alliance (not EFF) will host a new exhibition (Feb. 8-March 31) offering a politically engaged and inclusive vision of the intersection of art, science, and technology. The exhibition, in partnership with the REFRESH collective, is hosted by Hunter College Art Galleries.
Fiber: The Coming Tech Revolution and Why America Might Miss It with Susan Crawford
On Feb. 21 at 6:30pm, Author Susan Crawford will be in conversation with Wired’s Peter Rubin at the Mechanics Institute in San Francisco. “Fiber” combines policy expertise with on-the-ground reporting, as Crawford reveals how corporations that control cable and Internet access in the United States tilt the playing field against competition, and how cities and towns are fighting this monopoly power in their communities. 
Admission is free for EFF supporters.
SF Privacy Lab with EFF’s Bill Budington
On Feb. 27 at 6:00pm, EFF’s Bill Budington will discuss browser tracking techniques that have developed over the last decade. The techniques allow remote sites to leverage the feature-rich web to track users without their knowledge or consent. 
This event is hosted by Privacy Lab, a local organization in the Electronic Frontier Alliance (not EFF). It will take place at Google’s San Francisco office.
RSA Conference 2019 — Cybersecurity + Public Interest Tech Track
A new field is emerging in the professional field of public interest technology—a community of people using their skills in technology to change the world for the better. Join an inspiring track at RSA on Thursday, March 7, with cybersecurity expert and EFF Board Member Bruce Schneider, EFF’s Executive Director Cindy Cohn, and over a dozen other security, civic, and social sector leaders.
Job Openings
Project Manager
EFF is looking for an Engineering and Design project manager, who will support and facilitate communication between EFF teams.
Privacy and Surveillance Activist 
This full-time activist position will focus on privacy issues, particularly around government surveillance. The ideal candidate will be a superb writer with a passion for protecting freedom online and the ability to think critically and manage time effectively.
Staff Technologist — JavaScript Developer
EFF is seeking a full-time developer for Privacy Badger, who will work with our Browser Extensions team. This is one of our efforts to protect users’ privacy online and block tracking. 
Executive Team Coordinator
We need a smart and motivated person with great organization and communication skills to provide administrative support for EFF’s executive team. This person will collaborate daily with the Executive Director, Deputy Director, and Chief Program Officer.
MiniLinks
Telecom Companies Are Seriously Overhyping 5G Networks
Telecom companies are pushing misleading hype about 5G, which is still years away. 5G standards will rely on existing fiber infrastructure—and we aren’t ready for it. (Slate)
How Dating Sites Spy On You
Dating sites collect sensitive personal information like drug usage habits and sexual preferences. They also have dozens of trackers that can collect profile information, as well as information on where a user clicks or looks. (Axios)
Inside the Lobbying War Over California’s Landmark Privacy Law
Facebook, Google, and other tech companies are lobbying to water down a California law passed last year to regulate data collection. (Washington Post)
Privacy Advocate Sues Sheriff’s Deputies After License Plate Readers Mark His Car Stolen
 The chair of Oakland’s Privacy Advisory Commission was detained, sometimes at gunpoint, by Contra Costa Sheriff’s deputies when a car he was driving was wrongly marked by automated license plate readers as stolen. “They’re just pulling guns and going cowboy on us,” said Brian Hofer, who has sued the county over the matter. (KTVU)
Supported by Donors
Our members make it possible for EFF to bring legal and technological expertise into crucial battles about online rights. Whether defending free speech online or challenging unconstitutional surveillance, your participation makes a difference. Every donation gives technology users who value freedom online a stronger voice and more formidable advocate.
If you aren’t already, please consider becoming an EFF member today.
Supported by DonorsOur members make it possible for EFF to bring legal and technological expertise into crucial battles about online rights. Whether defending free speech online or challenging unconstitutional surveillance, your participation makes a difference. Every donation gives technology users who value freedom online a stronger voice and more formidable advocate.If you aren’t already, please consider becoming an EFF member today.