The Eastern District of Texas is known as a hotbed for patent litigation. This week, however, the Court hosted a defamation trial – involving an attorney who blogged anonymously about patent litigation.
Texas attorney Eric Albritton sued Cisco and former Cisco attorney Rick Frenkel over posts on Frenkel’s Patent Troll Tracker website that suggested Albritton filed a lawsuit – against Cisco – the day before his client had rights in the relevant patent and then convinced the local clerk to alter the docket to change the filing date.
Albritton argued the posts harmed his reputation and Frenkel insisted they reflected fact and protected opinion only. Last week the Court ruled that, even though he is a private figure, Albritton would have to meet the high standard of actual malice because the posts involved an issue of public concern – the activities of the clerk’s office, Law.com said. The parties reached a confidential settlement early this week, shortly before the jury was to begin deliberations.
The facts of the suit are not as interesting as the fact that it got this far – a blog written by a lawyer for a business often targeted for patent infringement suits highlights the abundance of such suits and what he felt was abusive forum-shopping. Not surprisingly, the local attorneys filing the suits took offence. Plaintiffs’ attorneys and corporate defenders whine about the opposition’s abuse of legal system every day – but rarely (thankfully!) do they end up airing their complaints in federal court.
Frenkel’s blog post also poked a little fun at the Eastern District – he apologized on the stand for referring to it in his post as “The Banana Republic of East Texas”.
Though Frenkel revealed his identity as the blog’s author before the lawsuit was filed, he did so only after one of the local lawyers was already trying to convince Google to reveal Frenkel’s identity, according to techdirt. The Prior Art also has extensive coverage of the case.
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