Uniloc, perhaps best known as Patent Troll in Chief, suffered a pretty devastating blow today. The company has long asserted that its "software activation" patent that's beguiled everyone from Microsoft (to the tune of $388 million) to Electronic Arts gives it clearance to sue just about anyone who uses a form of online authentication for software. Until now, according to the Kansas City Business Journal. The Patent Trademark and Appeals Board has ruled that Uniloc's patent number 5,490,216 is invalid via an inter partes review (IPR). Essentially an IPR is a way for inventors to challenge a patent without getting federal courts involved.
To win, Sega of America, Ubisoft, Cambium Learning Group (an educational software developer), Lexmark subsidiary Kofax and Star Trek Online publisher Perfect World Entertainment fought back with something different. Uniloc has been using an apparently vaguely written Australian patent for its DRM system. That was filed a year prior to submitting it domestically, after other companies had released similar systems. The PTAB sided with the aforementioned companies, agreeing that Uniloc's practice wasn't on the up and up.
"Ultimately the PTAB gave undue credibility to a lone expert opinion that was authored by petitioners' counsel," Unilock USA president Sean Burdick wrote in an email. "Congratulations to Erise IP [the law firm representing Ubisoft and Co.] for pulling wool over the eyes of the Patent office." And that, my friends, is what we call irony. Uniloc can still appeal, of course, but hasn't done so yet. If that email is any indicator, chances are high that this isn't the last we'll hear from Burdick.