Tuesday, April 12, 2011, 07:00 am PT (10:00 am ET)
Priceline founder takes aim at Apple, more than 100 others in patent suitApple joins other major technology companies including Microsoft, Google, Amazon and Facebook as defendants in a new lawsuit from Walker Digital, which founded the travel site Priceline.com.
Walker Digital filed 15 lawsuits on Tuesday, targeting more than 100 companies, including eBay, Walmart, Sony and Groupon, in addition to Apple. The defendants have been accused of stealing inventions owned by Walker Digital, a research and development laboratory for technology patents.
The company was founded in 1994, and it said in a statement that its inventions are covered by more than 400 issued and pending U.S. and foreign patents. Walker Digital claims that its inventions generate direct licensing revenue that exceeds $200 million.
"Filing these lawsuits is not a step we sought or preferred," Walker Digital Chief Executive Jon Ellenthal said in a statement. "We have reached out to a wide range of companies that are engaging in commercial activities that clearly depend on inventions created and owned by Walker Digital. Unfortunately, many of these companies have refused to engage in meaningful negotiations that acknowledge the market value they derive from the use of our property."
The greatest success for privately held Walker Digital has been Priceline.com, which it launched in 1998. The travel service went public in 1999, and the next year Jay S. Walker, founder of Walker Digital, left Priceline to focus on new ventures.
Walker Digital has accused Apple and dozens of other technology companies of illegally using inventions it claims to have created in the mid-to-late 1990s. The complaint was filed Tuesday in a U.S. District Court in Delaware.
"We are disappointed that after reaching out to so many companies in an effort to secure reasonable licenses, we were consistently told that without litigation our requests would not be taken seriously," Ellenthal said. "Few inventors can bear the costs of patent lawsuits and most large companies know they can take advantage of smaller inventors who cannot afford the millions of dollars that just one patent lawsuit can cost.
"At Walker Digital, we dont believe that less innovation or more litigation serves anyones long-term interests. However, the unwillingness of those companies using our property to enter into joint commercial agreements has forced us to take an action that we had hoped to avoid."
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