In November 2016, we highlighted a patent troll case over Web autoplay technology. That same month, Netflix released its offline-download feature, which is now the subject of a patent infringement case.
A known “patent troll,” one could say Blackbird Technologies was only waiting for this moment to arise. According to a report by Ars Technica, “two former big-firm patent attorneys,” Wendy Verlander and Chris Freeman, founded the company that owns the patent in question, US Patent No. 7,174,362. Netflix is not alone: Vimeo, Starz, Mubi, and Studio 3 Partners are also facing patent infringement lawsuits from Blackbird. If the patent’s past success in a Delaware court is any indication, these companies may be making a significant settlement in the future.
Ars, as usual, finds the ironic part of a case: In 2000, Sungil Lee, the original patent owner, may have copied an idea from Netflix. Simply put, the patent was for the automated process of responding to a customer’s online order with a custom-made CD of data, without any human interaction. Sound familiar? By that time, Netflix’s red envelopes had already been flying around for two years. So while US Patent No. 7,174,362 may be the copycat, ironically, “it’s Blackbird who gets to claim the mantle of defending innovation.”