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Controversial Texas Attorney Continues Filing Technology-Patent-Infringement Suits

An East Texas-based firm has become controversial for filing a string of infringement suits based on a single technology patent. TQP Development reportedly consists of Michael Jones, who originally filed a 1989 patent application for the encryption technology in question, and Erich Spangenberg, a Dallas attorney who bought the patent from him in 2006. According to Forbes, Spangenberg is using the patent “to sue every technology, banking, and Web commerce company in sight” since 2008. Among the targets have been Apple, Amazon, Dell, Exxon Mobil, Intel, and TD Ameritrade. Many of these cases have been reportedly settled out of court. The area of alleged infringement is related to the use of the Secure Sockets Layer or Transport Layer Security handshake that creates a secure connection between a browser and a Web server. Although the patent expired in May 2012, US law lets TQP file suit against companies for alleged prior infringement for another six years. Spangenberg told Forbes, “When the government grants you the right to a patent, they grant you the right to exclude others from using it … The world would be a better place if people understood intellectual property. I don’t understand why just because [a technology is] prevalent, it should be free.” Bruce Schneier—a cryptography expert and chief security technology officer of UK telecommunications giant BT—has served as a consultant to several defendants in Spangenberg’s cases and called TQP a “really bad patent troll.” He said its patent should be invalidated by evidence that the technology previously existed prior to the award of the patent. (SlashDot)(Ars Technica)(Cypher Law Blog)(D Magazine)(IPNav)(Forbes)

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