Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Gradient Enterprises v. Skype: The Geek's Revenge?

Last week was a bad week for Skype, it's true. A full day outage caused angry worldwide anguish ("What do you mean, my free international telephone system isn't working!?!?"). And they were sued for patent infringement by a company no one ever heard of by the name of Gradient Enterprises.

Although Gradient suffered the standard condemnation by the usual suspects (TechCrunch, who labelled it an "obnoxious troll," I'm looking at you), the truth is a lot more obscure than that.

The first clue is the venue -- the Northern District of New York. Doesn't this troll know that the epicenter of the patent world is Marshall Texas?

The second clue is its almost complete lack of any presence online. Even tiny trolls can be found with a little digging.

The truth appears to be that Gradient appears to be the creation of the inventor of the patent, Kristeps Johnson, a proud resident of Rochester, NY, where the complaint was filed. He appears to be a talented computer engineer, known for developing something known as Sysjail, which enables computer processes to be put in "jail" so that they can only access part of the file system.

So, it may be true that Mr. Johnson is seeking to hold up Skype for millions of dollars for infringing what looks to be a pretty broad patent, but an "obnoxious troll" he is not.

No comments: