back to article eBay whacked with giant patent suit

eBay is being sued for a minimum of $3.8bn by a company which claims the auction house wilfully copied six of its patents. Should eBay be found guilty of wilful and malicious infringement it would have to pay three times that or up to $11.4bn. XPRT Ventures LLC of Connecticut claims that eBay not only stole its technology for …


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  1. Anonymous Coward

    The lawyer is right.

    "What makes this case particularly egregious is the allegation [...]". Yes. Exactly.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I wonder if they will settle out of court?

    Paypal gift only :D

    1. Anonymous Coward


      rub salt intot wounds and say you only except Google Checkout.

  3. lglethal Silver badge

    A quick test to identify a troll...

    Question a) When did sued company apparently begin using the already patented technology?

    Question b) What was the revenue of sued company at that time?

    Question c) What is the revenue of sued company now?

    If the answer to a) Is a long time ago; the answer to b) not so much; and the answer to c) a sh*tload; You have a troll...

    Any questions at the back?

  4. mego

    Ok, I'll bite

    What product is XPRT Ventures LLC offering that eBay is infringing on? I can't see anything other than a stock market listing and news on the suit.

    And if it's got nothing but a patent then it can get bent.

  5. Prodigal Rebel

    What I really wonder is

    why oh why do they file now what? 10 years after Ebay and Pp were founded? Imho there should be a very very very good reason why they only file now so much later

    1. Andrew Halliwell

      There is a very very good reason...

      Ebay hadn't made any money 10 years ago.

      Now they have.

      Mine's the one with the auctioneeer's gabble in the pocket.

      1. Anonymous Coward

        By "gabble"

        Did you mean you have a recording of the auctioneer's patois in your coat pocket or did you really mean "gavel" (the little mallet)?

      2. Doug Glass

        Oh Duhhh

        Gavel. Ok, senior moment there.

      3. Doug Glass


        What's a "gabble"?

    2. hoppityhop

      Good question, but the facts extant are more compelling.

      Rebel - that was my first reaction. But, we don't know whether there have been settlement discussions over the years between the two sides, and whether a key piece of evidence has surfaced, making the suit viable. The timeliness issue was undoubtedly argued--and lost--by the defendant to the court in an attempt for summary judgment.

      The notorious patent infringement case against Ford [Kearns v. Ford Motor Co., 203, U.S.P.Q. 884, 888 (E.D.Mich. 1978)] took twelve years to adjudicate, because these companies have the resources to drag out the process until the plaintiff either tires of the delays, runs out of resources, or drops dead.

      The overriding facts here are the patents held by the plaintiff which were applied for several times by--and refused to--the defendant.

  6. Ed Deckard

    eBay vs patent trolls?

    I hope the legal expenses bankrupt them both.

    1. gotes


      .. leaving us with a pack of very wealthy lawyers in search of their next victim(s)? No thanks!

  7. Dunstan Vavasour


    What makes this case egregious is the amount of damages being claimed, which appear to be based on the success of the defendant rather than any provable damage to the plaintiff.

    In terms of patent law the alleged actions of eBay are shocking, but not $3.8bn shocking.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Hang on though...

      I might have got this wrong but aren't some patents available for licence on a 'per-use' basis? Perhaps XPRT are doing just what the RIAA are doing and claiming costs based on the number of transactions carried out using the allegedly infringing technology.

      Apologies if I'm dreadfully oversimplifying things but just because 'a big company' decided to dismiss the suit as egregious doesn't mean it isn't up to anything naughty.

    2. L1feless

      Not accurate....

      No the damages being claimed are likely the sum of the fees which should have been paid to the plaintiff for the use of his technology (Technologies).

  8. paulc

    you forget the fundamental problem...

    these patents should not be granted in the first place as they're basically patenting an idea with a flowchart and a computer involved...

  9. AC-This-Isn't-Facebook

    Title Required

    Software patents, again, shouldn't be allowed.

    All these patent theft claims and lawsuits lately are utterly ridiculous.

  10. Anonymous Coward


    Only one, already very rich group, wins with patents, but they have had to spend all that time in law school I suppose...

  11. yoinkster

    why have they waited?

    Did they want to wait for eBay to get sufficiently large so that they could cash in?

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Makes me think of that Jobseekers plot in The League of Gentlemen.


    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      You set of lazy workshy cu.....

      Agreed, superb telly.

  13. Anonymous Coward

    Why so long?

    I'm no fan of eBay at all, but why has it taken so long for this patent infringement to hit the court? Surely, eBay has been doing things the same way (and presumably infringing these parents) for years?

    As for "One of the inventors, George Likourezos..." : Why do ALL American computer people seem to have weird names? Wozniak, Kernigan, Zimmermann...

    1. david wilson


      >>"As for "One of the inventors, George Likourezos..." : Why do ALL American computer people seem to have weird names? Wozniak, Kernigan, Zimmermann..."

      Last thing I heard, the USA had dropped the requirement to be English before moving there.

      Also, does non-English automatically equal 'weird'?

      In any case, what about Gates, Thompson, Bell, Moore, Grove, Ellison, Evans, Sutherland, etc.

      Or the 'slightly more weird' Warnock, Kildall, etc

      1. Sarah Bee (Written by Reg staff)

        Re: @AC

        American names came from all over the place and were often altered/mangled along the way. It's interesting. My family name was a right jumble of consonants.

        Anyway, the point is, it's not 'weird', it's quite normal, so shush.

        1. Steven Hunter


          Let me guess, Apis-Mellifera?

          1. John H Woods Silver badge

            Prize ...

            ... subtlest attempt to call the moderatrix 'honey'

  14. ShaggyDoggy


    Hopefully ebay have $11.4bn in their paypal account

    1. Eristone

      Re: Paypal

      Shaggy Dog, of course they do. It is currently being held in a Nigerian Bank Account and they will need some information to help move it ...

    2. Flybert

      hell .. they probably have 11 billion ...

      just in that phony "3-4 business days depending on your bank's policy" account

  15. Jason 24
    Thumb Up


    I can't see them winning, but would be nice to see those greedy fucks at ebay stomped into the ground!

  16. CT


    "Why do ALL American computer people seem to have weird names? Wozniak, Kernigan, Zimmermann..."

    Suspect it's not just computer people. Many people emigrated from all parts of the world to America.

  17. N2

    Hasta La Vista E-bay

    I hope they win & they dont take PayPal

  18. Anonymous Coward

    good luck changing patent law

    Fighting the worlds biggest self serving conflict of interest.

    Lawyers become politicians and lawmakers and make laws which are designed to make money for lawyers (while pretending to represent the people)

    1. Lou Gosselin

      Re: good luck changing patent law

      The notion of representing the people is just a pesky front; make no mistake, the government works for wealthy corporations.

  19. FARfetched

    Best defense is a good offense

    I've always wondered why one (or more) large companies with deep pockets doesn't try hitting a patent troll in the wallet. In other words, attempt to get their patents invalidated based on prior art or any other means. After that happened a few times, those trolls would either find some other line of work (probably as spammers) or approach companies early on with reasonable licensing terms.

    1. Lou Gosselin

      Re: Best defense is a good offense

      Many "IP trolls" cannot be sued for infringement themselves, since they merely sell licensing and not the technology itself. So there's no way to counter sue them.

      Invalidating the IP troll's patents may be possible, however that's likely to result in significant friendly fire on one's own portfolio. The evidence used to invalidate the troll's patents could also directly invalidate one's own patents. Let's not forget that a troll can threaten not only patents in the suite, but also patents that are not part of the suite. It's black mail, but it's very likely target company has plenty of invalid patents itself.

      Given how little software patents do to promote innovation, and how much damage is done by monopolizing it, we should bar any further software patents from being issued.

      1. A J Stiles

        May be worth it, though

        It might be worth sacrificing some of your own patents to kill a troll.

        Remember, the patent holder has the twin advantages that (1) they are already making the product and (2) they have already established a strong brand for themselves.

        It's all about who is in the better position to deal with the consequences.

  20. hoppityhop

    Attention California Voters -- Don't Vote for Meg-A-Phony Whitman

    She spent her way to the GOP nomination, and wouldn't talk to the media, or debate her opponents. The California Governorship is just another ego trip for this b*tch.

    1. LateNightLarry

      Attention California Voters --

      You mean NutMeg Whitman? That's one of the less nasty names she's being called on Facebook. I heard today that her ratings are still going down... They can keep right on dropping for all I care. I can't be bothered to vote for someone who, by her own admission, "couldn't be bothered" to vote for the last 20 years or so.

      MEGaFAIL Whitman. Really need two icons for this one... FAIL, and flames, to burn her chances

      1. hoppityhop

        Yup - what a two-faced lyin POS

        She was gung ho for the AZ stop-and-deport law until she routed Poizner for the GOP nomination. The next day she flip flopped on immigration. About the only certainty with her ensconced would be a CA version of the Bush II tax cuts for the rich.

        Naturally, she'll use her influence to bail her children out of trouble.

        Whether it's Bloomberg running NYC or this piece of work running CA, it's a bad idea to let billionaires set the agenda for the rest of us. :(

  21. belantario


    on line tat bazaar????

    nice to see impartial reporting

    1. Tom Maddox Silver badge

      Welcome to The Register!

      You must be new here, so I'll just let you know that if you get your panties in a twist over such a little thing, you'll surely be offended much more by, for example, their coverage of all things Apple. I look forward to your future expressions of offense.

    2. Neil Greatorex

      @ belantario

      You must be new here, oh wait...."joined Wednesday 14th July 2010 14:27 GMT"

      "online tat bazaar" is actually quite impartial.

      Have you been there recently?

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      You must be new here

      That is all.

    4. Steve Roper

      Yes, welcome...

      To help you appreciate El Reg's particular brand of iconoclastic journalism, I'll point you to the site's tagline, visible at the top right of the header: "Biting the hand that feeds IT". That tagline is there for a reason. It's what El Reg does. And it's what we, the commentard community, appreciate it for!

  22. Lou Gosselin

    No no no

    "XPRT Ventures LLC of Connecticut claims that eBay not only stole its technology for use in online payment systems including PayPal but added insult to injury by then filing its own patents."

    eBay didn't steal XPRT's technologies. That would involve ebay breaking in and removing those technologies from XPRT's possession. For the Nth time, infringing does not imply theft!

    Register reporters need to use the correct technical terminologies.

    1. Tom Maddox Silver badge

      Commentards need to learn to read

      The Reg is reporting that XPRT claims that eBay stole its technologies. If XPRT is *not* claiming that, then you might have a point, but it sounds like they are, so you don't.

      1. Lou Gosselin

        Re: Commentards need to learn to read

        I'll probably get more downvotes for this, but your responses are wrong.

        I cannot find anywhere xprt claims that ebay stole it's property (in the literal sense). I've looked through the article again, and it still appears that this claim was invented by the register. In the source cited by the register, they say:

        "eBay's unauthorized incorporation was a misuse of Inventors' confidential and proprietary material."

        This is more accurate, and is what the register should have reported. Not to justify ebay's actions, but there was no theft. It was unlicensed use of patented or confidential material, get it right.

    2. Tom Maddox Silver badge
      Thumb Down

      And furthermore . . .

      Having reread the article, it sounds like XPRT is claiming that eBay got a look at XPRT's technology and then went ahead and both used and patented it themselves without licensing it, which sounds pretty damn close to theft in the vernacular sense.

    3. Antidisestablishmentarianist

      Spoken like a

      true freetard.....

  23. RW

    @ Defex

    That lawyer-politicians should pass laws is really no surprise. Law, statutory law in particular, is what they were taught, so that's what they see as the solution to all society's problems. It's rather like chiropractors: all they know is spinal manipulation so pretty well no matter what your problem is, they see manipulation as the solution.

    I am endlessly amused when a law is passed to outlaw some newly recognized Bad Behavior, followed by self-congratulatory smiles all round by the lawyer-pols and their partners is stupidity, the bureaucrats. Passing a law agin' something has never stopped anybody from doing what they want.

    1. ecofeco Silver badge

      Ever Been Somewhere That Was Lawless?

      Oh really?

    2. Disco-Legend-Zeke

      When The Only Tool... have is a hammer, everything starts looking like a nail.

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Why did XPRT sit on their hands for so long? Well...

    ...if I came up with some useful new idea and someone I showed it too stole it and built an entire (very profitable) division of their business around that idea, then I would probably wait until that division was fully mature and then go banco.

    (And strangely enough, some time ago, when there was a big fuss over fraudulent chargebacks for porn sites on credit cards, I came up with a quite probably patentable system that would have made such chargebacks nigh impossible. And as an added bonus your credit card details would not be scattered across twenty 'leven vendors of questionable provenance. This could have been me.)

    XPRT have very little to lose. And if the article is to be believed, eBay has damned itself wonderfully by making multiple filings which have all been rejected on the basis of the prior art of XPRT's patent granted two years earlier. They have a good shot at getting something out of a not too expensive fight.

    If this can be won, it can almost certainly be won by a kid with the ink still wet on his diploma and billing would damned near be court time only. And hell the sort of experience he could get out of a case like this win or lose can't be bought.

    My thoughts are that eBay should/will retroactively buy out XPRT's patent, with something substantial for goodwill. If they lose this in court eBay stands to lose a good deal more, even if the court deems the requested amount to be excessive.

  25. Sureo

    Let's see...

    $3.8 Bn ... how much will Ebay/Paypal have to raise their fees to cover that?

  26. John A Blackley

    Help me out here

    What, exactly, is "an UNDERSTANDING of confidentiality and payment" (my uppercase). Does the dude have anything in writing or doesn't he?

  27. ecofeco Silver badge

    Unclear on the Concept of Ownership

    It obvious many of you are not inventors and never will be.

    I've know several small inventors who could never have successfully protected their invention form being stolen by companies with deeper pockets and more lawyers, without the help of "trolls."

    The reason it takes years to mount a theft of IP claim is because the inventor(s) often have to save up money for years and years in order to be able to hire a lawyer. And a patent protection company would not bother with lawsuits unless they thought they had a damn good chance of winning.

    The bottom line is that large companies will and DO steal from inventors who cannot afford to protect their patent. Every. Single. Day.

    Some of you are also unclear on what a "patent" means. It means you OWN the idea. Period. You don't have to implement it or sell it. But unless you can afford to protect it WILL be stolen from you and unless you are rich, there is nothing you can do about it. Contrary to popular belief, 99% of lawyers do NOT work on contingency.

    And last, the figure is high because it's going to take years to settle this and the final judgment is usually substantially less than the original claim.

    My god, many of you are in the tech sector and should know this.

    1. david wilson


      >>"My god, many of you are in the tech sector and should know this."

      Many people are in the tech sector and are deeply unconvinced about the merits of software patents.

      I think many people would sympathise in general with someone having their ideas ripped off, but think that patents should really apply to novel inventions which, without the inventor, we would likely not have had the benefit of for some time.

      For example, looking at what Paypal do, is it really meaningfully different from money transfer operators who have been around for ages, using paper, post, and telephone/telegraph?

      Someone gives them money. They take a cut, and give the remainder to someone else, along with a little bit of information as to where it came from.

      Their success seems to be far more down to having become ubiquitous than having amazing innovative technology.

    2. paulc

      Ideas are NOT patentable...

      only the specific implementation of it... and as far as I'm concerned adding "with a computer" and/or "stored on computer readable media" does not make it patentable...

      a patent should only be awarded for something that physically exists and there is a working model available lodged with the patent office... what we're now seeing is so much obfuscation in the claims that it's nigh on impossible to work out what the actual patent is for or for one skilled in the art to reproduce it.

      Patent claims should be written in plain language and accompanied with clear instructions so that the invention which is being protected can be reproduced.

      1. Lou Gosselin


        I agree with you about what a patent should be, however the situation in the US is that software patents are patentable.

        Software patent monopolies are among the stupidest policies concerning the tech sector in the US.

        Seriously, I have yet to hear from a single peer who was able to solve a problem with the public information contained in patents. The majority of software developers don't have "patent protection", so insisting they're beneficial at encouraging development is a fallacy.

        Monopolies are hard enough to compete with as is, there is no need to give them exclusive rights to implementations developed by others.

  28. Jos

    George Likourezos?

    Would that be this one?

    What, the patent for playing Bingo (20060017227 Bingo-like and trivia televison game show ), or the actual: 20090144195 SYSTEM AND METHOD FOR AUTOMATICALLY REPLENISHING AN ELECTRONIC PAYMENT ACCOUNT

    Sheez, this guy has some wild variations in his patent applications...

  29. Anonymous Coward

    Again with the "online tat bazaar" insult.

    The things I sell are not tat. There is tat on there, and there is good stuff as well. Is this author from the Daily Fail?

    1. Sarah Bee (Written by Reg staff)

      Re: Again with the "online tat bazaar" insult.

      Oh it's just what we've always called it. Don't take it personally, ferchrissakes.

  30. Robert E A Harvey


    You know what, I don't care. Dull, dull, dull.

    "Highway man mugged whilst going about his business". "landsharks do what landsharks do".

    It's sod all to do with me, and if ebay/paypal were to FOAD I would care about as much as I cared about the death of Moat.

    We need a 'yawn' icon.

  31. Philip Cohen

    eBay/PayPal/Donahoe: Dead Men Walking

    eBay can probably buy their way out of this little mess, so I see the real problems for PayPal coming from simply a better service from the likes of Visa/Mastercard.

    <b>Draft Media Release</b>

    “It is with very great sadness that eBay’s Chief Headless Turkey, John Donahoe (aka “Peter Principle”—among many other derogatory terms), announces the probable demise of eBay’s most ugly daughter, Pay-Pal. Pay-Pal is about to be stricken by particularly virulent strains of Visa+CyberSource and Mastercard Open Platform, aggravated by Pay-Pal’s insurmountable lack of direct financial institutions participation and a great deal of Pay-Pal user/merchant dissatisfaction, particularly with respect to Pay-Pal’s grossly unfair, “all responsibility avoiding” UA, totally primitive risk management processes, and grossly unprofessional, buyer-biased, fraud-facilitating, transactions mediation.

    “Pay-Pal’s health may therefore be expected to deteriorate and, if ultimately not completely incapacitated, will most likely be eventually confined to its mandatory offering on what little there will be by then left of the Donahoe-devastated eBay marketplaces. There is no cure for this condition, and the “eBafia Don” is particularly saddened by the inevitable presumption that it is unlikely that Pay-Pal will be able to continue to underpin eBay’s sagging bottom line in the future.”

    Also, unlike all other payments processors operating in Australia, Pay-Pal has declined to sign up to the payments processors’ “Code of Conduct”. The clear message therefrom is “users beware”!

    The fact is, had the original developers of the “bankcard” concept ever behaved the way Pay-Pal behaves, credit/debit cards would never have gotten off the ground, and we would still be paying for all our purchases with pieces of paper and little metal discs.

    A detailed examination of and prognosis for Pay-Pal (including a further link to the “Pay-Pal Horror Tour”) at:

    eBay/Pay-Pal/Donahoe: Dead Men Walking (already brain dead)

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