Thanks to Ken for pointing this one out.
A number of companies, including Surewest, AT&T, Cisco and Comcast are being sued by a company called BuyerLeverage for violating a pair of patents because they’re using Return Path as part of their mail filtering decisions.
I pulled the docs (1-11-cv-00645-LPS).
The patents all seem to center around a system where there is another layer between sender and recipient. The sender and recipient negotiate a deposit before email is delivered.
The oldest patent was filed in October 2001 (Patent 7,072,943).
An Email guarantee deposit method, system, and program product with the method comprising in one embodiment, the steps of: receiving mail from a sender a request to send to a recipient an Email; receiving a deposit or authorization to obtain a deposit of something of value; sending the Email to the recipient only if a deposit of authorization for a deposit is received; determining if the recipient has accepted the deposit; and if the recipient has accepted the deposit, then facilitating the disposal of the deposit. In an important alternate embodiment, a deposit can be required before an Email with a auditory or visual enhancement is provided, or before routing to a designated type of device occurs.
As with most patents, they have detailed diagrams of the process.
What I’m not really seeing is how using Sender Score Certified as part of a delivery making process is actually violating the patents as cited.
Reading the complaints doesn’t add much clarity to how they think the patent is being violated. It’s all boilerplate that says:
By use of the Return Path Email Certification Program (or data emanating from that program) [Defendant] filters the emails of those senders it cannot yet otherwise reliably evaluate (so-called “Unknown Senders”) by giving preferential access to emails that are, effectively, subject to an economic performance guarantee that would make the sending of spam cost-prohibitive. This is what allows [Defendant] to provide senders of legitimate email with the opportunity to prove their trustworthiness, without, at the same time, opening the door to spammers.
[Defendant] has, without limitation, infringed under 35 U.S.C. § 271, at least, claims 1 and 25 of the „943 patent, claims 1 and 12 of the „546 patent, claims 1 and 16 of the „972 patent, claims 1 and 27 of the „756 patent, and claims 1 and 14 of the „561 patent through its use of preferred sender addresses emanating from, or based on, the Email Certification Program (formerly “Bonded Sender”) administered by Return Path, Inc. for filtering unwanted e-mails (i.e. “spam”).
They appear to be arguing that Sender Score Certification constitutes enough value for a deposit.
I think this is something for the patent lawyers to work out. I can’t quite see the infringement.