Norfolk Jury Sides with Twitter in Infringement Lawsuit

Norfolk Jury Sides with Twitter in Infringement Lawsuit

2011/11/1

Twitter did not use patented technology from a Northern Virginia lawyer to develop its "browse interests" page on the social networking website, a jury decided Monday.

The jury in federal court ruled against Dinesh Agarwal, a patent attorney who invented his own interactive Web program to track famous people or people with similar interests. He sought millions from Twitter, saying it used his patent without permission.

Agarwal said after the verdict that he was "100 percent disappointed" in the outcome.

The jury ruled that Twitter did not infringe on Agarwal's patent. The panel further ruled that Agarwal's patent was invalid, agreeing with Twitter's argument that the technology had already existed.

"We're very pleased," Elliot Peters, one of Twitter's lawyers, said afterward. "We think it's a just result."

Twitter issued a statement late Monday:

"We are gratified that a jury has agreed that this suit had no merit. Twitter strongly supports legal reforms that would limit baseless claims such as this one. While we would prefer to compete on the Internet rather than the courtroom, we will continue to vigorously defend groundless patent lawsuits filed against us."

In 2002, Agarwal received a patent for a "Method and System for Creating an Interactive Virtual Community of Famous People." He said he thought of the idea as a way to follow people in the tech community and as a way for his wife to follow celebrities. He created a company called VS Technologies but never developed his invention commercially.

Twitter was born in 2006 in San Francisco. Its website allows users to post 140-character messages called "tweets." Last year, it unveiled a new "browse interests" feature that allows users to click on various boxes to follow people or companies with similar interests.

Agarwal sued Twitter, saying it used his technology to develop the browse interests feature. Twitter denied the claim and said it had never even heard of Agarwal before the suit was filed. One of Agarwal's expert witnesses said he deserved more than $8 million in royalties.

Twitter's lawyers and their witnesses argued that the technology existed before 2002. They cited websites such as Martindale-Hubbell, Who's Who and GeoCities.

Agarwal's lawyer, Jon Suder, argued that those websites were simple directories or web-hosting platforms and not interactive virtual communities.

"We had our day in court and the jury spoke," Suder said. "We obviously disagree with it."

He did not know whether they would appeal.

(Source: hamptonroad.com)




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