You’re a Pirate, Mr. Grinch: Intellectual Property Analysis of PersonalWeb Technologies

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Report Date: 
Fri, 2011-12-16

So let’s pretend for a moment that you’re the Grinch. You’ve stolen all the presents. You’ve smashed all the ornaments. You’ve ruined Christmas for all the Hoos in Hooville (we are in Charlottesville, after all). But then your heart grew, your attitude changed, and now you want to show the world what “reformed Grinch” looks like. So you give all the presents back. You remake the tree. All of Hooville loves you.

But let’s go one step further. You need to keep Hooville’s trust as time goes on. So what better way to prove your loyalty than to fight against anyone who tries to steal presents. Because who would know the ins and outs of Christmas-ruining better than the Grinch, right? In a way, this is what Michael Weiss and Kevin Bermeister, the founders of Morpheus and Kazaa, respectively, are doing with their patent licensing company, PersonalWeb Technologies. Once the barons of peer-to-peer file-sharing (read: they weren’t exactly on the RIAA’s Christmas list ), these “reformed pirates” are claiming the technology they invented (or, inherited rather) back in July is being infringed upon.

Hidden within the buzz surrounding the Great Android War and the upcoming vote on the SOPA bill, PersonalWeb Technologies, “a proud member of the East Texas community,” quietly filed a handful of patent infringement suits against Google, Youtube, Amazon and others over data-handling technology on December 8, 2011, in the Eastern District of Texas. Considering the Eastern District has seen 567 patent infringement suits this year (compared to, for example, 126 filed in the rest of Texas combined ), news of PersonalWeb’s suits would have been just as pathetically pedestrian as Lodsys and other PersonalWeb neighbors had it not been for Weiss and Bermeister's involvement – the company’s CEO and non-executive chairman, respectively.

But even looking past their proud heritage of being an NPE in East Texas, one only has to look briefly at PersonalWeb’s patents in suit to wonder if these two really are “reformed pirates,” or if it’s all just a ruse to hide the true nature of a “Pirate Grinch.”