InternetNZ puts up cash for patent opinion

A joint effort by New Zealand online retailers to fight a North American company's claims of patent infringement has been given a cash boost by InternetNZ.

A joint effort by New Zealand online retailers to fight a North American company’s claims of patent infringement received a cash boost on Friday when InternetNZ said it would pay for an initial legal opinion.

A number of local e-tailers have received letters from lawyers acting for DE Technologies, alleging their websites infringed a patent the company holds. The letter proposes licensing retailers to use the patent by paying a fee of $10,000 plus royalties.

A website has been set up by local e-tailers and developers to coordinate a response to DE Technologies’ demands. The site includes background information, a bulletin board and a mailing list.

Among the issues discussed is the hunt for prior art, examples of similar systems that pre-date the patent’s “priority date” of December 1997 and might be used to invalidate it.

InternetNZ vice-president David Farrar has posted a message to the mailing list saying the organisation would commission an initial legal opinion from A J Park, a law firm specialising in intellectual property issues. The money would be offered on the assumption the opinion would cost less than $5000, Farrar said.

The proposed brief would cover the scope of DE Technologies’ claims; how many NZ e-commerce businesses could be affected; whether the patent was valid; and how prior use could be shown. It would also canvass the options available to businesses contacted by DE Technologies, and suggest the advice InternetNZ should provide.

InternetNZ was unlikely to get involved in litigation, but did feel it appropriate to help clarify issues and options, Farrar wrote.

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