I love water sports and so ZUP’s presentation caught my attention. ZUP sells a wake board that anyone can ride. Here is their website. What caught my attention about ZUP was all the interest the Sharks showed in the patents covering this product. The presenters rambled on about a summary judgment and an IPR, both of which I am familiar with, and both of which can spell disaster. I decided to check it out.
The first thing I found was an article from Gene Quinn when ZUP was first patented. Gene runs a patent blog and knows his stuff when it comes to patents. I’d like to see Gene do a follow up article because this one blog post, posted here, was just to announce the patent.
In the presentation, the inventor said he found an attorney to sue an infringer on a contingent fee basis. Always risky with patent infringement. And in this case, I’m not sure the attorney knew what he was doing. The other side filed summary judgement motion to have the patent declared invalid and also that they didn’t infringe. This means the judge decides the case without it ever going to a jury. The judge agreed with the defendants and tossed the case, saying that ZUP didn’t provide “a scintilla of evidence.” Here is a link to the decision. ZUP appealed, but I haven’t been able to find what happened on appeal. My guess is that the appeal went nowhere.
The inventor also mentioned and Inter Partes Review, which is a procedure in the patent office where you can have the patent declared invalid. Usually, the judge will stay the litigation while the validity of the patent is determined in the patent office. I checked the site, and there is nothing on US Patent 8,292,681 so I’m not sure what that reference was about. In any event, the bottom line is that if you do get a patent, be very careful about how you choose to enforce it. If you don’t, you can find yourself in a mess really fast.