We’ve all seen the competitions you can enter online, ranging from entering a competition on a forum to having to create and upload a piece of work. A common type of online contest is where you upload pictures, but be warned, some people may own patents to the entire concept of online contests.
Ruth Taylor is a Pennsylvania-based photographer who often runs photo contests on her website, BytePhoto. Along comes Garfum.com, a video website owned by New Jersey’s Michael Garofalo, who claimed that the competitions run on the site infringe on US Patent No. 8,209,618. The patent refers to the ability to create user accounts, upload content, organise the content and have users vote on the content, all rather vague terms given the digital age.
Initially requesting $50,000 in the lawsuit, Garofalo’s lawyers reduced this to $5,000 and then $2,500 later on. In an attempt to defend herself Taylor got in touch with the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), a group that deals with electronic rights, who took up the case pro-bono. Filing a motion to dismiss the case the EFF claimed that it should be thrown out of court under the Alice Corp precedent, a precedent that claims just because something is done via software the patent needs to cover something more than an abstract idea.
Garfum dropped the case before it went to court, however, the EFF didn’t end it there, filing a motion to seek attorneys’ fees for the case. EFF lawyer Daniel Nazer stated, “the idea that you could patent an abstract idea, find innocent enthusiasts online and demand settlement money—and then slink away once challenged and before the court issues a ruling—goes against any sense of fair play”.
The total cost to cover the fees would come close to $30,000, with even more added because of the latest motion. Something that could soon become a reality sooner than expected with US Chief District Judge Jerome Simandle stating in an opinion that due to their “unreasonable” behaviour during the case, Garfum should end up paying the fees.